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"ESSAYS  BEFORE  A 
SONATA" 


BY  .^ 

CHARLES    EMVES 


Ube  ikntcftetbocket  press 

NEW  YORK 
1920 


Copyright,  1920 

BY 

C.  E.  IVES 


MAV  -2  1921 


0)C!,A611985 


r= 


"  These  prefatory  essays  were  written  by  the  composer  for  those 
who  can't  stand  his  music — and  the  music  for  those  who  can't  stand 
his  essays  ;  to  those  who  can't  stand  either,  the  whole  is  respectfully 
dedicated." 


CONTENTS 

I. — Prologue 

PAGE 

3 

II. — Emerson 

II 

III. — Hawthorne          .... 

.       46 

IV.— "  The  Alcotts  "  .... 

51 

V. — Thoreau 

.       56 

VI. — Epilogue     ..... 

.       81 

The  following  pages  were  written  primarily  as  a  preface  or 
reason  for  the  [writer's]  second  Pianoforte  Sonata — "Concord, 
Mass.,  1845," — a  group  of  four  pieces,  called  a  sonata  for  want 
of  a  more  exact  name,  as  the  form,  perhaps  substance,  does  not 
justify  it.  The  music  and  prefaces  were  intended  to  be  printed 
together,  but  as  it  was  found  that  this  would  make  a  cumber- 
some volume  they  are  separate.  The  whole  is  an  attempt  to 
present  [one  person's]  impression  of  the  spirit  of  transcendentalism 
that  is  associated  in  the  minds  of  many  with  Concord,  Mass., 
of  over  a  half  century  ago.  This  is  undertaken  in  impression- 
istic pictures  of  Emerson  and  Thoreau,  a  sketch  of  the  Alcotts, 
and  a  Scherzo  supposed  to  reflect  a  lighter  quality  which  is  often 
found  in  the  fantastic  side  of  Hawthorne.  The  first  and  last 
movements  do  not  aim  to  give  any  programs  of  the  life  or  of 
any  particular  work  of  either  Emerson  or  Thoreau  but  rather 
composite  pictures  or  impressions.  They  are,  however,  so  general 
in  outline  that,  from  some  viewpoints,  they  may  be  as  far  from 
accepted  impressions  (from  true  conceptions,  for  that  matter) 
as  the  valuation  which  they  purport  to  be  of  the  influence  of 
the  life,  thought,  and  character  of  Emerson  and  Thoreau  is 
inadequate. 


Essays  Before  a  Sonata 


I 

PROLOGUE 


How  far  is  anyone  justified,  be  he  an  authorit}^  or 
a  layman,  in  expressing  or  trying  to  express  in  terms 
of  music  (in  sounds,  if  you  like)  the  value  of  anything, 
material,  moral,  intellectual,  or  spiritual,  which  is 
usually  expressed  in  terms  other  than  music?  How 
far  afield  can  music  go  and  keep  honest  as  well  as 
reasonable  or  artistic?  Is  it  a  matter  limited  only 
by  the  composer's  power  of  expressing  what  lies  in 
his  subjective  or  objective  consciousness?  Or  is  it 
limited  by  any  limitations  of  the  composer?  Can 
a  tune  literally  represent  a  stonewall  with  vines  on 
it  or  with  nothing  on  it,  though  it  (the  tune)  be  made 
by  a  genius  whose  power  of  objective  contemplation 
is  in  the  highest  state  of  development?  Can  it  be 
done  by  anything  short  of  an  act  of  mesmerism  on 
the  part  of  the  composer  or  an  act  of  kindness  on  the 
part  of  the  listener?  Does  the  extreme  materializing 
of  music  appeal  strongly  to  anyone  except  to  those 
without  a  sense  of  humor  —  or  rather  with  a  sense 
of     humor? — or,     except,     possibly     to    those    who 

3 


4  PROLOGUE 

might  excuse  it,  as  Herbert  Spencer  might  by  the 
theory  that  the  sensational  element  (the  sensations 
we  hear  so  much  about  in  experimental  psychology) 
is  the  true  pleasurable  phenomenon  in  music  and 
that  the  mind  should  not  be  allowed  to  interfere? 
Does  the  success  of  program  music  depend  more  upon 
the  program  than  upon  the  music?  If  it  does,  what 
is  the  use  of  the  music,  if  it  does  not,  what  is  the  use 
of  the  program?  Does  not  its  appeal  depend  to  a 
great  extent  on  the  listener's  willingness  to  accept 
the  theory  that  music  is  the  language  of  the  emotions 
and  only  that?  Or  inversely  does  not  this  theory 
tend  to  limit  music  to  programs? — a  limitation  as 
bad  for  music  itself — for  its  wholesome  progress, — as 
a  diet  of  program  music  is  bad  for  the  listener's  abil- 
ity to  digest  an3^thing  beyond  the  sensuous  (or 
physical-emotional).  To  a  great  extent  this  depends 
on  what  is  meant  by  emotion  or  on  the  assump- 
tion that  the  word  as  used  above  refers  more  to  the 
expression,  of,  rather  than  to  a  meaning  in  a  deeper 
sense — which  may  be  a  feeling  inifluenced  by  some 
experience  perhaps  of  a  spiritual  nature  in  the  expres- 
sion of  which  the  intellect  has  some  part.  "The 
nearer  we  get  to  the  mere  expression  of  emotion," 
says  Professor  Sturt  in  his  Philosophy  of  Art  and 
Personality  as  in  the  antics  of  boys  who  have  been 
promised  a  holiday,  the  further  we  get  away  from  art." 
On  the  other  hand  is  not  all  music,  program-music, 
— is  not  pure  music,  so  called,  representative  in  its 
essence?  Is  it  not  program-music  raised  to  the 
nth  power  or  rather  reduced  to  the  minus  nth 
power?     Where  is  the  line  to  be  drawn  between  the 


PROLOGUE  5 

expression  of  subjective  and  objective  emotion? 
It  is  easier  to  know  what  each  is  than  when  each 
becomes  what  it  is.  The  " Separateness  of  Art" 
theory — that  art  is  not  life  but  a  reflection  of  it — 
"that  art  is  not  vital  to  life  but  that  life  is  vital  to  it," 
does  not  help  us.  Nor  does  Thoreau  who  says  not 
that  "life  is  art,"  but  that  "life  is  an  art,"  which  of 
course  is  a  different  thing  than  the  foregoing.  Tolstoi 
is  even  more  helpless  to  himself  and  to  us.  For  he 
eliminates  further.  From  his  definition  of  art  we 
may  learn  little  more  than  that  a  kick  in  the  back 
is  a  work  of  art,  and  Beethoven's  9th  Symphony  is  not. 
Experiences  are  passed  on  from  one  man  to  another. 
Abel  knew  that.  And  now  we  know  it.  But  where 
is  the  bridge  placed? — at  the  end  of  the  road  or  only 
at  the  end  of  our  vision?  Is  it  all  a  bridge? — or  is 
there  no  bridge  because  there  is  no  gulf?  Suppose 
that  a  composer  writes  a  piece  of  music  conscious  that 
he  is  inspired,  say,  by  witnessing  an  act  of  great  self- 
sacrifice — another  piece  by  the  contemplation  of  a 
certain  trait  of  nobility  he  perceives  in  a  friend's 
character — and  another  by  the  sight  of  a  mountain 
lake  under  moonlight.  The  first  two,  from  an  inspira- 
tional standpoint  would  naturally  seem  to  come  un- 
der the  subjective  and  the  last  under  the  objective, 
yet  the  chances  are,  there  is  something  of  the  quality 
of  both  in  all.  There  may  have  been  in  the  first 
instance  physical  action  so  intense  or  so  dramatic 
in  character  that  the  remembrance  of  it  aroused  a 
great  deal  more  objective  emotion  than  the  composer 
was  conscious  of  while  writing  the  music.  In  the 
third  instance,  the  music  may  have  been  influenced 


6  PROLOGUE 

strongly  though  subconsciously  by  a  vague  remem- 
brance of  certain  thoughts  and  feelings,  perhaps  of 
a  deep  religious  or  spiritual  nature,  which  suddenly 
came  to  him  upon  realizing  the  beauty  of  the  scene 
and  which  overpowered  the  first  sensuous  pleasure 
— perhaps  some  such  feeling  as  of  the  conviction  of 
immortality,  that  Thoreau  experienced  and  tells 
about  in  W olden.  "I  penetrated  to  those  meadows 
.  .  .  when  the  wild  river  and  the  woods  were  bathed 
in  so  pure  and  bright  a  light  as  would  have  waked 
the  dead  if  they  had  been  slumbering  in  their  graves 
as  some  suppose.  There  needs  no  stronger  proof  of 
immortality."  Enthusiasm  must  permeate  it,  but 
what  it  is  that  inspires  an  art-effort  is  not  easily 
determined  much  less  classified.  The  word  "inspire" 
is  used  here  in  the  sense  of  cause  rather  than  effect. 
A  critic  may  say  that  a  certain  movement  is  not 
inspired.  But  that  may  be  a  matter  of  taste — perhaps 
the  most  inspired  music  sounds  the  least  so — to  the 
critic.  A  true  inspiration  may  lack  a  true  expression 
unless  it  is  assumed  that  if  an  inspiration  is  not  true 
enough  to  produce  a  true  expression — (if  there  be 
anyone  who  can  definitely  determine  what  a  true 
expression  is) — it  is  not  an  inspiration  at  all. 

Again  suppose  the  same  composer  at  another  time 
writes  a  piece  of  equal  merit  to  the  other  three,  as 
estimates  go;  but  holds  that  he  is  not  conscious  of 
what  inspired  it — that  he  had  nothing  definite  in 
mind — that  he  was  not  aware  of  any  mental  image  or 
process — that,  naturally,  the  actual  work  in  creating 
something  gave  him  a  satisfying  feeling  of  pleasure 
perhaps   of  elation.     What   will   you  substitute  for 


PROLOGUE  7 

the  mountain  lake,  for  his  friend's  character,  etc.? 
Will  you  substitute  anything?  If  so  why?  If  so 
what?  Or  is  it  enough  to  let  the  matter  rest  on  the 
pleasure  mainly  physical,  of  the  tones,  their  color, 
succession,  and  relations,  formal  or  informal?  Can 
an  inspiration  come  from  a  blank  mind?  Well — he 
tries  to  explain  and  says  that  he  was  conscious  of 
some  emotional  excitement  and  of  a  sense  of  something 
beautiful,  he  doesn't  know  exactly  what — a  vague 
feeling  of  exaltation  or  perhaps  of  profound  sadness. 

What  is  the  source  of  these  instinctive  feelings, 
these  vague  intuitions  and  introspective  sensations? 
The  more  we  try  to  analyze  the  more  vague  they 
become.  To  pull  them  apart  and  classify  them  as 
"subjective"  or  "objective"  or  as  this  or  as  that, 
means,  that  they  may  be  well  classified  and  that  is 
about  all;  it  leaves  us  as  far  from  the  origin  as  ever. 
What  does  it  all  mean?  What  is  behind  it  all ?  The 
"voice  of  God,"  says  the  artist,  "the  voice  of  the 
devil,"  says  the  man  in  the  front  row.  Are  we,  be- 
cause we  are,  human  beings,  born  with  the  power 
of  innate  perception  of  the  beautiful  in  the  abstract 
so  that  an  inspiration  can  arise  through  no  external 
stimuli  of  sensation  or  experience, — no  association 
with  the  outward?  Or  was  there  present  in  the  above 
instance,  some  kind  of  subconscious,  instantaneous, 
composite  image,  of  all  the  mountain  lakes  this  man 
had  ever  seen  blended  as  kind  of  overtones  with  the 
various  traits  of  nobility  of  many  of  this  friends 
embodied  in  one  personality?  Do  all  inspirational 
images,  states,  conditions,  or  whatever  they  may  be 
truly  called,  have  for  a  dominant  part,  if  not  for  a 


8  PROLOGUE 

source,  some  actual  experience  in  life  or  of  the  social 
relation  ?  To  think  that  they  do  not — always  at  least 
— would  be  a  relief;  but  as  we  are  trying  to  consider 
music  made  and  heard  by  htunan  beings  (and  not 
by  birds  or  angels)  it  seems  difficult  to  suppose  that 
even  subconscious  images  can  be  separated  from 
some  human  experience — there  must  be  something 
behind  subconsciousness  to  produce  consciousness, 
and  so  on.  But  whatever  the  elements  and  origin 
of  these  so-called  images  are,  that  they  do  stir  deep 
emotional  feelings  and  encourage  their  expression  is 
a  part  of  the  unknowable  we  know.  They  do  often 
arouse  something  that  has  not  yet  passed  the  border 
line  between  subconsciousness  and  consciousness — 
an  artistic  intuition  (well  named,  but) — object  and 
cause  unknown! — here  is  a  program! — conscious  or 
subconscious  what  does  it  matter?  Why  try  to 
trace  any  stream  that  flows  through  the  garden  of 
consciousness  to  its  source  only  to  be  confronted 
by  another  problem  of  tracing  this  source  to  its 
source?  Perhaps  Emerson  in  the  Rhodora  answers 
by  not  trying  to  explain 

That  if  eyes  were  made  for  seeing 

Then  beauty  is  its  own  excuse  for  being: 

Why  thou  wert  there,  O,  rival  of  the  rose! 

I  never  thought  to  ask,  I  never  knew; 

But,  in  my  simple  ignorance,  suppose 

The  self-same  Power  that  brought  me  there  brought  you. 

Perhaps  Sturt  answers  by  substitution:  "We  can- 
not explain  the  origin  of  an  artistic  intuition  any 
more  than  the  origin  of  any  other  primary  function 


PROLOGUE  9 

of  our  nature.  But  if  as  I  believe  civilization  is 
mainly  founded  on  those  kinds  of  unselfish  human 
interests  which  we  call  knowledge  and  morality  it  is 
easily  intelligible  that  we  should  have  a  parallel 
interest  which  we  call  art  closely  akin  and  lending 
powerful  support  to  the  other  two.  It  is  intelligible 
too  that  moral  goodness,  intellectual  power,  high 
vitality,  and  strength  should  be  approved  by  the 
intuition."  This  reduces,  or  rather  brings  the  prob- 
lem back  to  a  tangible  basis  namely: — the  transla- 
tion of  an  artistic  intuition  into  musical  sounds 
approving  and  reflecting,  or  endeavoring  to  approve 
and  reflect,  a  "moral  goodness,"  a  "high  vitality," 
etc.,  or  any  other  human  attribute  mental,  moral,  or 
spiritual. 

Can  music  do  more  than  this?  Can  it  do  this? 
and  if  so  who  and  what  is  to  determine  the  degree  of 
its  failure  or  success?  The  composer,  the  performer 
(if  there  be  any),  or  those  who  have  to  listen?  One 
hearing  or  a  century  of  hearings? — and  if  it  isn't 
successful  or  if  it  doesn't  fail  what  matters  it? — the 
fear  of  failure  need  keep  no  one  from  the  attempt  for 
if  the  composer  is  sensitive  he  need  but  launch  forth 
a  countercharge  of  "being  misunderstood"  and  hide 
behind  it.  A  theme  that  the  composer  sets  up  as 
"moral  goodness"  may  sound  like  "high  vitality," 
to  his  friend  and  but  like  an  outburst  of  "nervous 
weakness"  or  only  a  "stagnant  pool"  to  those  not 
even  his  enemies.  Expression  to  a  great  extent  is  a 
matter  of  terms  and  terms  are  anyone's.  The  mean- 
ing of  "God"  may  have  a  billion  interpretations  if 
there  be  that  many  souls  in  the  world. 


lo  PROLOGUE 

There  is  a  moral  in  the  "Nominalist  and  Realist" 
that  will  prove  all  sums.  It  runs  something  like 
this:  No  matter  how  sincere  and  confidential  men 
are  in  trying  to  know  or  assuming  that  they  do  know 
each  other's  mood  and  habits  of  thought,  the  net 
result  leaves  a  feeling  that  all  is  left  unsaid;  for  the 
reason  of  their  incapacity  to  know  each  other,  though 
they  use  the  same  words.  They  go  on  from  one 
explanation  to  another  but  things  seem  to  stand  about 
as  they  did  in  the  beginning  ''because  of  that  vicious 
assumption."  But  we  would  rather  believe  that 
music  is  beyond  any  analogy  to  word  language  and 
that  the  time  is  coming,  but  not  in  our  lifetime,  when 
it  will  develop  possibilities  unconceivable  now, — a 
language,  so  transcendent,  that  its  heights  and  depths 
will  be  common  to  all  mankind. 


II 

EMERSON 


It  has  seemed  to  the  writer,  that  Emerson  is  greater 
— his  identity  more  complete  perhaps — in  the  realms 
or  revelation — natural  disclosure — than  in  those  of 
poetry,  philosophy,  or  prophecy.  Though  a  great 
poet  and  prophet,  he  is  greater,  possibly,  as  an  invader 
of  the  unknown, — America's  deepest  explorer  of  the 
spiritual  immensities, — a  seer  painting  his  discoveries 
in  masses  and  with  any  color  that  may  lie  at  hand 
— cosmic,  religious,  human,  even  sensuous;  a  recorder, 
freely  describing  the  inevitable  struggle  in  the  soul's 
uprise — perceiving  from  this  inward  source  alone, 
that  every  "ultimate  fact  is  only  the  first  of  a  new 
series";  a  discoverer,  whose  heart  knows,  with  Vol- 
taire, "that  man  seriously  reflects  when  left  alone," 
and  would  then  discover,  if  he  can,  that  "wondrous 
chain  which  links  the  heavens  with  earth — the  world 
of  beings  subject  to  one  law."  In  his  reflections 
Emerson,  unlike  Plato,  is  not  afraid  to  ride  Arion's 
Dolphin,  and  to  go  wherever  he  is  carried — to  Parnassus 
or  to  "  Musket aquid." 

We  see  him  standing  on  a  summit,  at  the  door  of 
the  infinite  where  many  men  do  not  care  to    climb. 


12  EMERSON 

peering  into  the  mysteries  of  life,  contemplating  the 
eternities,  hurling  back  whatever  he  discovers  there, 
— now,  thunderbolts  for  us  to  grasp,  if  we  can, 
and  translate — now  placing  quietly,  even  tenderly, 
in  our  hands,  things  that  we  ma}^  see  without 
effort — if  we  won't  see  them,  so  much  the  worse  for 
us. 

We  see  him, — a  mountain-guide,  so  intensely  on 
the  lookout  for  the  trail  of  his  star,  that  he  has  no 
time  to  stop  and  retrace  his  footprints,  which  may 
often  seem  indistinct  to  his  followers,  who  find  it 
easier  and  perhaps  safer  to  keep  their  eyes  on  the 
ground.  And  there  is  a  chance  that  this  guide  could 
not  always  retrace  his  steps  if  he  tried — and  why 
should  he! — he  is  on  the  road,  conscious  only  that, 
though  his  star  may  not  lie  within  walking  distance, 
he  must  reach  it  before  his  wagon  can  be  hitched  to 
it — a  Prometheus  illuminating  a  privilege  of  the 
Gods — lighting  a  fuse  that  is  laid  towards  men. 
Emerson  reveals  the  less  not  by  an  analysis  of  itself, 
but  b}^  bringing  men  towards  the  greater.  He  does 
not  try  to  reveal,  personally,  but  leads,  rather,  to  a 
field  where  revelation  is  a  harvest-part,  where  it  is 
known  by  the  perceptions  of  the  soul  towards  the 
absolute  law.  He  leads  us  towards  this  law,  which  is 
a  realization  of  what  experience  has  suggested  and 
philosophy  hoped  for.  He  leads  us,  conscious  that  the 
aspects  of  truth,  as  he  sees  them,  may  change  as  often 
as  truth  remains  constant.  Revelation  perhaps,  is 
but  prophecy  intensified — the  intensifying  of  its 
mason-work  as  well  as  its  steeple.  Simple  prophecy, 
while  concerned  with  the  past,  reveals  but  the  future, 


EMERSON  13 

while  revelation  is  concerned  with  all  time.  The 
power  in  Emerson's  prophecy  confuses  it  with — or  at 
least  makes  it  seem  to  approach — revelation.  It  is 
prophecy  with  no  time  element.  Emerson  tells,  as 
few  bards  could,  of  what  will  happen  in  the  past,  for 
his  future  is  eternity  and  the  past  is  a  part  of  that. 
And  so  like  all  true  prophets,  he  is  always  modern, 
and  will  grow  modern  with  the  years — for  his  sub- 
stance is  not  relative  but  a  measure  of  eternal  truths 
determined  rather  by  a  universalist  than  by  a  partial- 
ist.  He  measured,  as  Michel  Angelo  said  true  artists 
should,  "with  the  eye  and  not  the  hand."  But  to 
attribute  modernism  to  his  substance,  though  not  to 
his  expression,  is  an  anachronism — and  as  futile  as 
calling  to-day's  sunset  modern. 

As  revelation  and  prophecy,  in  their  common 
acceptance  are  resolved  by  man,  from  the  absolute 
and  universal,  to  the  relative  and  personal,  and  as 
Emerson's  tendency  is  fundamentally  the  opposite, 
it  is  easier,  safer  and  so  apparently  clearer,  to  think  of 
him  as  a  poet  of  natural  and  revealed  philosophy. 
And  as  such,  a  prophet — but  not  one  to  be  confused 
with  those  singing  soothsayers,  whose  pockets  are 
filled,  as  are  the  pockets  of  conservative-reaction 
and  radical  demagoguery  in  pupit,  street-corner, 
bank  and  columns,  with  dogmatic  fortune-tellings. 
Emerson,  as  a  prophet  in  these  lower  heights,  was  a 
conservative,  in  that  he  seldom  lost  his  head,  and  a 
radical,  in  that  he  seldom  cared  whether  he  lost  it  or 
not.  He  was  a  born  radical  as  are  all  true  conser- 
vatives. He  was  too  much  "absorbed  by  the  abso- 
lute," too  much  of  the  universal  to  be  either — though 


14  EMERSON 

he  could  be  both  at  once.  To  Cotton  Mather,  he 
would  have  been  a  demagogue,  to  a  real  demagogue  he 
would  not  be  understood,  as  it  was  with  no  self  inter- 
est that  he  laid  his  hand  on  reality.  The  nearer  any 
subject  or  an  attribute  of  it,  approaches  to  the  perfect 
truth  at  its  base,  the  more  does  qualification  become 
necessary.  Radicalism  must  always  qualify  itself. 
Emerson  clarifies  as  he  qualifies,  by  plunging  into, 
rather  than  "emerging  from  Carlyle's  soul-confusing 
labyrinths  of  speculative  radicalism. ' '  The  radicalism 
that  we  hear  much  about  to-day,  is  not  Emerson's 
kind — but  of  thinner  fiber — it  qualifies  itself  by  going 
to  A  "root"  and  often  cutting  other  roots  in  the  pro- 
cess; it  is  usually  impotent  as  dynamite  in  its  cause 
and  sometimes  as  harmful  to  the  wholesome  progress 
of  all  causes;  it  is  qualified  by  its  failure.  But  the 
Radicalism  of  Emerson  plunges  to  all  roots,  it  becomes 
greater  than  itself — greater  than  all  its  formal  or 
informal  doctrines — too  advanced  and  too  conser- 
vative for  any  specific  result — too  catholic  for  all 
the  churches — for  the  nearer  it  is  to  truth,  the  farther 
it  is  from  a  truth,  and  the  more  it  is  qualified  by  its 
future  possibilities. 

Hence  comes  the  difficulty — the  futility  of  attempt- 
ing to  fasten  on  Emerson  any  particular  doctrine, 
philosophic,  or  religious  theory.  Emerson  wrings 
the  neck  of  any  law,  that  would  become  exclusive  and 
arrogant,  whether  a  definite  one  of  metaphysics  or 
an  indefinite  one  of  mechanics.  He  hacks  his  way 
up  and  down,  as  near  as  he  can  to  the  absolute,  the 
oneness  of  all  nature  both  human  and  spiritual,  and 
to  God's  benevolence.     To  him  the  ultimate  of  a 


EMERSON  15 

conception  is  its  vastness,  and  it  is  probably  this, 
rather  than  the  **  blind-spots "  in  his  expression  that 
makes  us  incline  to  go  with  him  but  half-way ;  and 
then  stand  and  build  dogmas.  But  if  we  can  not 
follow  all  the  way — if  we  do  not  always  clearly  perceive 
the  whole  picture,  we  are  at  least  free  to  imagine  it — 
he  makes  us  feel  that  we  are  free  to  do  so;  perhaps 
that  is  the  most  he  asks.  For  he  is  but  reaching  out 
through  and  beyond  mankind,  trying  to  see  what  he 
can  of  the  infinite  and  its  immensities — throwing 
back  to  us  whatever  he  can — but  ever  conscious  that 
he  but  occasionally  catches  a  glimpse;  conscious 
that  if  he  would  contemplate  the  greater,  he  must 
wrestle  with  the  lesser,  even  though  it  dims  an  outline; 
that  he  must  struggle  if  he  would  hurl  back  anything 
— even  a  broken  fragment  for  men  to  examine  and 
perchance  in  it  find  a  germ  of  some  part  of  truth; 
conscious  at  times,  of  the  futility  of  his  effort  and  its 
message,  conscious  of  its  vagueness,  but  ever  hopeful 
for  it,  and  confident  that  its  foundation,  if  not  its 
medium  is  somewhere  near  the  eventual  and  "abso- 
lute good" — the  divine  truth  underlying  all  life.  If 
Emerson  must  be  dubbed  an  optimist — then  an  opti- 
mist fighting  pessimism,  but  not  wallowing  in  it;  an 
optimist,  who  does  not  study  pessimism  by  learning 
to  enjoy  it,  whose  imagination  is  greater  than  his 
curiosity,  who  seeing  the  sign-post  to  Erebus,  is  strong 
enough  to  go  the  other  way.  This  strength  of  optim- 
ism, indeed  the  strength  we  find  always  underlying 
his  tolerance,  his  radicalism,  his  searches,  prophecies, 
and  revelations,  is  heightened  and  made  efficient  by 
"imagination-penetrative,"    a    thing    concerned    not 


i6  EMERSON 

with  the  combining  but  the  apprehending  of  things. 
A  possession,  akin  to  the  power,  Ruskin  says,  all 
great  pictures  have,  which  "depends  on  the  penetra- 
tion of  the  imagination  into  the  true  nature  of  the 
thing  represented,  and  on  the  scorn  of  the  imagination 
for  all  shackles  and  fetters  of  mere  external  fact  that 
stand  in  the  way  of  its  suggestiveness  " — a  possession 
which  gives  the  strength  of  distance  to  his  eyes,  and 
the  strength  of  muscle  to  his  soul.  With  this  he 
slashes  down  through  the  loam — nor  would  he  have 
us  rest  there.  If  we  would  dig  deep  enough  only  to 
plant  a  doctrine,  from  one  part  of  him,  he  would  show 
us  the  quick-silver  in  that  furrow.  If  we  would 
creed  his  Compensation,  there  is  hardly  a  sentence 
that  could  not  wreck  it,  or  could  not  show  that  the 
idea  is  no  tenet  of  a  philosophy,  but  a  clear  (though 
perhaps  not  clearly  hurled  on  the  canvas)  illustration 
of  universal  justice — of  God's  perfect  balances;  a 
story  of  the  analogy  or  better  the  identity  of  polarity 
and  duality  in  Nature  with  that  in  morality.  The 
essay  is  no  more  a  doctrine  than  the  law  of  gravitation 
is.  If  we  would  stop  and  attribute  too  much  to  genius, 
he  shows  us  that  "what  is  best  written  or  done  by 
genius  in  the  world,  was  no  one  man's  work,  but  came 
by  wide  social  labor,  when  a  thousand  wrought  like 
one,  sharing  the  same  impulse."  If  we  would  find 
in  his  essay  on  Montaigne,  a  biography,  we  are  shown 
a  biography  of  scepticism — and  in  reducing  this  to 
relation  between  "sensation  and  the  morals"  we  are 
shown  a  true  Montaigne — we  know  the  man  better 
perhaps  by  this  less  presentation.  If  we  would  stop 
and  trust  heavily  on  the  harvest  of  originality,  he 


EMERSON  17 

shows  us  that  this  plant — this  part  of  the  garden — is 
but  a  relative  thing.  It  is  dependent  also  on  the 
richness  that  ages  have  put  into  the  soil.  "Every 
thinker  is  retrospective." 

Thus  is  Emerson  always  beating  down  through  the 
crust  towards  the  first  fire  of  life,  of  death  and  of 
eternity.  Read  where  you  will,  each  sentence  seems 
not  to  point  to  the  next  but  to  the  undercurrent  of  all. 
If  you  would  label  his  a  religion  of  ethics  or  of  morals, 
he  shames  you  at  the  outset,  "for  ethics  is  but  a 
reflection  of  a  divine  personality."  All  the  religions 
this  world  has  ever  known,  have  been  but  the  after- 
math of  the  ethics  of  one  or  another  holy  person; 
"as  soon  as  character  appears  be  sure  love  will"; 
"the  intuition  of  the  moral  sentiment  is  but  the 
insight  of  the  perfection  of  the  laws  of  the  soul"; 
but  these  laws  cannot  be  catalogued. 

If  a  versatilist,  a  modern  Goethe,  for  instance, 
could  put  all  of  Emerson's  admonitions  into  practice, 
a  constant  permanence  would  result, — an  eternal 
short-circuit — a  focus  of  equal  X-rays.  Even  the 
value  or  success  of  but  one  precept  is  dependent,  like 
that  of  a  ball-game  as  much  on  the  batting-eye  as  on 
the  pitching-arm.  The  inactivity  of  permanence  is 
what  Emerson  will  not  permit.  He  will  not  accept 
repose  against  the  activity  of  truth.  But  this  almost 
constant  resolution  of  every  insight  towards  the 
absolute  may  get  a  little  on  one's  nerves,  if  one  is  at 
all  partial- wise  to  the  specific;  one  begins  to  ask  what 
is  the  absolute  anyway,  and  why  try  to  look  clear 
through  the  eternities  and  the  unknowable  even  out 
of  the  other  end.     Emerson's  fondness  for  flying  to 


]^  EMERSON 

definite  heights  on  indefinite  wings,  and  the  tendency 
to  over-resolve,  becomes  unsatisfying  to  the  impatient, 
who  want  results  to  come  as  they  walk.  Probably 
this  is  a  reason  that  it  is  occasionally  said  that  Emer- 
son has  no  vital  message  for  the  rank  and  file.  He  has 
no  definite  message  perhaps  for  the  literal,  but  his 
messages  are  all  vital,  as  much,  by  reason  of  his 
indefiniteness,  as  in  spite  of  it. 

There  is  a  suggestion  of  irony  in  the  thought  that 
the  power  of  his  vague  but  compelling  vitality,  which 
ever  sweeps  us  on  in  spite  of  ourselves,  might  not 
have  been  his,  if  it  had  not  been  for  those  definite 
religious  doctrines  of  the  old  New  England  theologians. 
For  almost  two  centuries,  Emerson's  mental  and 
spiritual  muscles  had  been  in  training  for  him  in  the 
moral  and  intellectual  contentions,  a  part  of  the  reli- 
gious exercise  of  his  forebears.  A  kind  of  higher  sen- 
sitiveness seems  to  culminate  in  him.  It  gives  him 
a  power  of  searching  for  a  wider  freedom  of  soul  than 
theirs.  The  religion  of  Puritanism  was  based  to  a 
great  extent,  on  a  search  for  the  unknowable,  limited 
only  by  the  dogma  of  its  theology — a  search  for  a 
path,  so  that  the  soul  could  better  be  conducted  to 
the  next  world,  while  Emerson's  transcendentalism 
was  based  on  the  wider  search  for  the  unknowable, 
unlimited  in  any  way  or  by  anything  except  the  vast 
bounds  of  innate  goodness,  as  it  might  be  revealed 
to  him  in  any  phenomena  of  man,  Nature,  or  God. 
This  distinction,  tenuous,  in  spite  of  the  definite- 
sounding  words,  we  like  to  believe  has  something 
peculiar  to  Emerson  in  it.  We  like  to  feel  that  it 
superimposes  the  one  that  makes  all  transcendental- 


EMERSON  19 

ism  but  an  intellectual  state,  based  on  the  theory  of 
innate  ideas,  the  reality  of  thought  and  the  necessity 
of  its  freedom.  For  the  philosophy  of  the  religion,  or 
whatever  you  will  call  it,  of  the  Concord  Transcen- 
dent alists  is  at  least,  more  than  an  intellectual  state 
— it  has  even  some  of  the  functions  of  the  Puritan 
church — it  is  a  spiritual  state  in  which  both  soul  and 
mind  can  better  conduct  themselves  in  this  world, 
and  also  in  the  next — when  the  time  comes.  The 
search  of  the  Puritan  was  rather  along  the  path 
of  logic,  spiritualized,  and  the  transcendentalist 
of  reason,  spiritualized — a  difference  in  a  broad 
sense  between  objective  and  subjective  contem- 
plation. 

The  dislike  of  inactivity,  repose  and  barter,  drives 
one  to  the  indefinite  subjective.  Emerson's  lack  of 
interest  in  permanence  may  cause  him  to  present  a 
subjectivity  harsher  on  the  outside  than  is  essential. 
His  very  universalism  occasionally  seems  a  limitation. 
Somewhere  here  may  lie  a  weakness — real  to  some, 
apparent  to  others — a  weakness  in  so  far  as  his  rela- 
tion becomes  less  vivid — to  the  many;  insofar  as  he 
over-disregards  the  personal  unit  in  the  universal. 
If  Genius  is  the  most  indebted,  how  much  does  it 
owe  to  those  who  would,  but  do  not  easily  ride  with 
it  ?  If  there  is  a  weakness  here  is  it  the  fault  of  sub- 
stance or  only  of  manner?  If  of  the  former,  there  is 
organic  error  somewhere,  and  Emerson  will  become 
less  and  less  valuable  to  man.  But  this  seems  im- 
possible, at  least  to  us.  Without  considering  his 
manner  or  expression  here  (it  forms  the  general  sub- 
ject of  the  second  section  of  this  paper),  let  us  ask  if 


20  EMERSON 

Emerson's  substance  needs  an  affinity,  a  supplement 
or  even  a  complement  or  a  gangplank?  And  if  so,  of 
what  will  it  be  composed? 

Perhaps  Emerson  could  not  have  risen  to  his  own, 
if  it  had  not  been  for  his  Unitarian  training  and  asso- 
ciation with  the  churchmen  emancipators.  "Chris- 
tianity is  founded  on,  and  supposes  the  authorit}^  of, 
reason,  and  cannot  therefore  oppose  it,  without  sub- 
verting itself."  ...  "Its  office  is  to  discern  uni- 
versal truths,  great  and  eternal  principles  .  .  .  the 
highest  power  of  the  soul. ' '  Thus  preached  Channing. 
Who  knows  but  this  pulpit  aroused  the  younger 
Emerson  to  the  possibilities  of  intuitive  reasoning 
in  spiritual  realms  ?  The  influence  of  men  like  Chan- 
ning in  his  fight  for  the  dignity  of  human  nature, 
against  the  arbitrary  revelations  that  Calvinism  had 
strapped  on  the  church,  and  for  the  belief  in  the  divine 
in  human  reason,  doubtless  encouraged  Emerson  in 
his  unshackled  search  for  the  infinite,  and  gave  him 
premises  which  he  later  took  for  granted  instead  of 
carrying  them  around  with  him.  An  overinterest, 
not  an  underinterest  in  Christian  ideal  aims,  may 
have  caused  him  to  feel  that  the  definite  paths  were 
well  established  and  doing  their  share,  and  that  for 
some  to  reach  the  same  infinite  ends,  more  paths 
might  be  opened — paths  which  would  in  themselves, 
and  in  a  more  transcendent  way,  partake  of  the 
spiritual  nature  of  the  land  in  quest, — another  expres- 
sion of  God's  Kingdom  in  Man.  Would  you  have  the 
indefinite  paths  always  supplemented  by  the  shadow 
of  the  definite  one  of  a  first  influence? 

A  characteristic  of  rebellion,  is  that  its  results  are 


EMERSON  21 

often  deepest,  when  the  rebel  breaks  not  from  the 
worst  to  the  greatest,  but  from  the  great  to  the  greater. 
The  youth  of  the  rebel  increases  this  characteristic. 
The  innate  rebellious  spirit  in  young  men  is  active 
and  buoyant.  They  could  rebel  against  and  improve 
the  millennium.  This  excess  of  enthusiasm  at  the 
inception  of  a  movement,  causes  loss  of  perspective; 
a  natural  tendency  to  undervalue  the  great  in  that 
which  is  being  taken  as  a  base  of  departure.  A 
''youthful  sedition"  of  Emerson  was  his  withdrawal 
from  the  communion,  perhaps,  the  most  socialistic  doc- 
trine (or  rather  symbol)  of  the  church — a  "commune" 
above  property  or  class. 

Picking  up  an  essay  on  religion  of  a  rather  remark- 
able-minded boy — perhaps  with  a  touch  of  genius — 
written  when  he  was  still  in  college,  and  so  serving  as 
a  good  illustration  in  point — we  read — "Every  think- 
ing man  knows  that  the  church  is  dead."  But  every 
thinking  man  knows  that  the  church-part  of  the  church 
always  has  been  dead — that  part  seen  by  candle-light, 
not  Christ-light.  Enthusiasm  is  restless  and  hasn't 
time  to  see  that  if  the  church  holds  itself  as  nothing 
but  the  symbol  of  the  greater  light  it  is  life  itself — 
as  a  sj^mbol  of  a  symbol  it  is  dead.  Many  of  the 
sincerest  followers  of  Christ  never  heard  of  Him.  It 
is  the  better  influence  of  an  institution  that  arouses 
in  the  deep  and  earnest  souls  a  feeling  of  rebellion  to 
make  its  aims  more  certain.  It  is  their  very  sincerity 
that  causes  these  seekers  for  a  freer  vision  to  strike 
down  for  more  fundamental,  universal,  and  perfect 
truths,  but  with  such  feverish  enthusiasm,  that  they 
appear  to  overthink  themselves — a  subconscious  way 


22  EMERSON 

of  going  Godward  perhaps.  The  rebel  of  the  twen- 
tieth century  says:  "Let  us  discard  God,  immortaHty, 
miracle — but  be  not  untrue  to  ourselves."  Here  he, 
no  doubt,  in  a  sincere  and  exalted  moment,  confuses 
God  with  a  name.  He  apparently  feels  that  there  is  a 
separatable  difference  between  natural  and  revealed 
religion.  He  mistakes  the  powers  behind  them,  to 
be  fundamentally  separate.  In  the  excessive  keenness 
of  his  search,  he  forgets  that  "being  true  to  ourselves" 
is  God,  that  the  faintest  thought  of  immortality  is 
God,  and  that  God  is  "miracle."  Overenthusiasm 
keeps  one  from  letting  a  common  experience  of  a 
day  translate  what  is  stirring  the  soul.  The  same 
inspiring  force  that  arouses  the  young  rebel,  brings 
later  in  life  a  kind  of  "experience-afterglow,"  a  realiza- 
tion that  the  soul  cannot  discard  or  limit  anything. 
Would  you  have  the  youthful  enthusiasm  of  rebellion, 
which  Emerson  carried  beyond  his  youth  always 
supplemented  by  the  shadow  of  experience? 

Perhaps  it  is  not  the  narrow  minded  alone  that 
have  no  interest  in  anything,  but  in  its  relation  to 
their  personality.  Is  the  Christian  Religion,  to  which 
Emerson  owes  embryo-ideals,  anything  but  the  reve- 
lation of  God  in  a  personality — a  revelation  so  that 
the  narrow  mind  could  become  opened?  But  the 
tendency  to  over-personalize  personality  may  also 
have  suggested  to  Emerson  the  necessity  for  more 
universal,  and  impersonal  paths,  though  they  be 
indefinite  of  outline  and  vague  of  ascent.  Could 
you  journey,  with  equal  benefit,  if  they  were  less  so? 
Would  you  have  the  universal  always  supplemented 
by  the  shadow  of  the  personal?     If  this  view  is  ac- 


EMERSON  23 

cepted,  and  we  doubt  that  it  can  be  by  the  majority, 
Emerson's  substance  could  well  bear  a  supplement, 
perhaps  an  affinity.  Something  that  will  support 
that  which  some  conceive  he  does  not  offer.  Some- 
thing that  will  help  answer  Alton  Locke's  question: 
"What  has  Emerson  for  the  working-man?"  and 
questions  of  others  who  look  for  the  gangplank 
before  the  ship  comes  in  sight.  Something  that  will 
supply  the  definite  banister  to  the  infinite,  which  it 
is  said  he  keeps  invisible.  Something  that  will  point 
a  crossroad  from  "his  personal"  to  "his  nature." 
Something  that  may  be  in  Thoreau  or  Wordsworth, 
or  in  another  poet  whose  songs  "breath  of  a  new  morn- 
ing of  a  higher  life  though  a  definite  beauty  in  Nature  " 
— or  something  that  will  show  the  birth  of  his  ideal 
and  hold  out  a  background  of  revealed  religion,  as  a 
perspective  to  his  transcendent  religion — a  counter- 
poise in  his  rebellion — which  we  feel  Channing  or 
Dr.  Bushnell,  or  other  saints  known  and  unknown 
might  supply. 

If  the  arc  must  be  completed — if  there  are  those 
who  would  have  the  great,  dim  outlines  of  Emerson 
fulfilled,  it  is  fortunate  that  there  are  Bushnells,  and 
Wordsworths,  to  whom  they  may  appeal — to  say 
nothing  of  the  Vedas,  the  Bible,  or  their  own  souls. 
But  such  possibilities  and  conceptions,  the  deeper 
they  are  received,  the  more  they  seem  to  reduce  their 
need.  Emerson's  Circle  may  be  a  better  whole, 
without  its  complement.  Perhaps  his  "unsatiable 
demand  for  unity,  the  need  to  recognize  one  nature 
in  all  variety  of  objects,"  would  have  been  impaired, 
if  something  should  make  it  simpler  for  men  to  find 


24  EMERSON 

the  identity  they  at  first  want  in  his  substance. 
"Draw  if  thou  canst  the  mystic  Hne  severing  rightly 
his  from  thine,  which  is  human,  which  divine." 
Whatever  means  one  would  use  to  personalize  Emer- 
son's natural  revelation,  whether  by  a  vision  or  a 
board  walk,  the  vastness  of  his  aims  and  the  dignity 
of  his  tolerance  would  doubtless  cause  him  to  accept 
or  at  least  try  to  accept,  and  use  "magically  as  a  part 
of  his  fortune."  He  would  modestly  say,  perhaps, 
"that  the  world  is  enlarged  for  him,  not  by  finding 
new  objects,  but  by  more  affinities,  and  potencies 
than  those  he  already  has."  But,  indeed,  is  not 
enough  manifestation  already  there?  Is  not  the 
asking  that  it  be  made  more  manifest  forgetting  that 
"we  are  not  strong  by  our  power  to  penetrate,  but 
by  our  relatedness  ? "  Will  more  signs  create  a  greater 
sympathy?  Is  not  our  weak  suggestion  needed  only 
for  those  content  with  their  own  hopelessness? 

Others  may  lead  others  to  him,  but  he  finds  his 
problem  in  making  "gladness  hope  and  fortitude 
flow  from  his  page,"  rather  than  in  arranging  that 
our  hearts  be  there  to  receive  it.  The  first  is  his 
duty — the  last  ours ! 


II 

A  devotion  to  an  end  tends  to  undervalue  the 
means.  A  power  of  revelation  may  make  one  more 
concerned  about  his  perceptions  of  the  soul's  nature 
than  the  way  of  their  disclosure.  Emerson  is  more 
interested  in  what  he  perceives  than  in  his  expression 
of  it.     He  is  a  creator  whose  intensity  is  consumed 


EMERSON  25 

more  with  the  substance  of  his  creation  than  with 
the  manner  by  which  he  shows  it  to  others.  Like 
Petrarch  he  seems  more  a  discoverer  of  Beauty  than 
an  imparter  of  it.  But  these  discoveries,  these  devo- 
tions to  aims,  these  struggles  tow^ard  the  absolute, 
do  not  these  in  themselves,  impart  something,  if 
not  all,  of  their  own  unity  and  coherence — which  is 
not  received,  as  such,  at  first,  nor  is  foremost  in  their 
expression.  It  must  be  remembered  that  "truth" 
was  what  Emerson  was  after — not  strength  of  out- 
line, or  even  beauty  except  in  so  far  as  they  might 
reveal  themselves,  naturally,  in  his  explorations  to- 
wards the  infinite.  To  think  hard  and  deeply  and 
to  say  what  is  thought,  regardless  of  consequences,  may 
produce  a  first  impression,  either  of  great  translu- 
cence,  or  of  great  muddiness,  but  in  the  latter  there 
may  be  hidden  possibilities.  Some  accuse  Brahms' 
orchestration  of  being  muddy.  This  may  be  a  good 
name  for  a  first  impression  of  it.  But  if  it  should 
seem  less  so,  he  might  not  be  saying  what  he  thought. 
The  mud  may  be  a  form  of  sincerity  which  demands 
that  the  heart  be  translated,  rather  than  handed 
around  through  the  pit.  A  clearer  scoring  might 
have  lowered  the  thought.  Carlyle  told  Emerson 
that  some  of  his  paragraphs  didn't  cohere.  Emerson 
wrote  by  sentences  or  phrases,  rather  than  by  logical 
sequence.  His  underlying  plan  of  work  seems  based 
on  the  large  unity  of  a  series  of  particular  aspects  of  a 
subject,  rather  than  on  the  continuity  of  its  expres- 
sion. As  thoughts  surge  to  his  mind,  he  fills  the 
heavens  with  them,  crowds  them  in,  if  necessary,  but 
seldom  arranges  them,  along  the  ground  first.     Among 


26  EMERSON 

class-room  excuses  for  Emerson's  imperfect  coherence 
and  lack  of  unity,  is  one  that  remembers  that  his 
essays  were  made  from  lecture  notes.  His  habit, 
often  in  lecturing,  was  to  compile  his  ideas  as  they 
came  to  him  on  a  general  subject,  in  scattered  notes, 
and  when  on  the  platform,  to  trust  to  the  mood 
of  the  occasion,  to  assemble  them.  This  seems  a 
specious  explanation,  though  true  to  fact.  Vague- 
ness, is  at  times,  an  indication  of  nearness  to  a  per- 
fect truth.  The  definite  glory  of  Bernard  of  Cluny's 
Celestial  City,  is  more  beautiful  that  true — probably. 
Orderly  reason  does  not  always  have  to  be  a  visible 
part  of  all  great  things.  Logic  may  possibly  require 
that  unity  means  something  ascending  in  self-evident 
relation  to  the  parts  and  to  the  whole,  with  no  ellipsis 
in  the  ascent.  But  reason  may  permit,  even  demand 
an  ellipsis,  and  genius  may  not  need  the  self-evident 
part.  In  fact,  these  parts  may  be  the  "blind-spots" 
in  the  progress  of  unity.  They  may  be  filled  with 
little  but  repetition,  "Nature  loves  analogy  and 
hates  repetition."  Botany  reveals  evolution  not 
permanence.  An  apparent  confusion  if  lived  with 
long  enough  may  become  orderly.  Emerson  was  not 
writing  for  lazy  minds,  though  one  of  the  keenest  of 
his  academic  friends  said  that,  he  (Emerson)  could 
not  explain  many  of  his  own  pages.  But  why  should 
he! — he  explained  them  when  he  discovered  them — 
the  moment  before  he  spoke  or  wrote  them.  A  rare 
experience  of  a  moment  at  daybreak,  when  something 
in  nature  seems  to  reveal  all  consciousness,  cannot 
be  explained  at  noon.  Yet  it  is  a  part  of  the  day's 
unity.     At  evening,  nature  is  absorbed  by  another 


EMERSON  27 

experience.  She  dislikes  to  explain  as  much  as  to 
repeat.  It  is  conceivable,  that  what  is  unified  form 
to  the  author,  or  composer,  may  of  necessity  be  form- 
less to  his  audience.  A  home-run  will  cause  more 
unity  in  the  grand  stand  than  in  the  season's  batting 
average.  If  a  composer  once  starts  to  compromise,  his 
work  will  begin  to  drag  on  him.  Before  the  end  is 
reached,  his  inspiration  has  all  gone  up  in  sounds 
pleasing  to  his  audience,  ugly  to  him — sacrificed  for 
the  first  acoustic — an  opaque  clarity,  a  picture  painted 
for  its  hanging.  Easy  unity,  like  easy  virtue,  is 
easier  to  describe,  when  judged  from  its  lapses  than 
from  its  constancy.  When  the  infidel  admits  God  is 
great,  he  means  only:  "I  am  lazy — it  is  easier  to  talk 
than  live."  Ruskin  also  says:  "Suppose  I  like  the 
finite  curves  best,  who  shall  say  I'm  right  or  wrong? 
No  one.  It  is  simply  a  question  of  experience." 
You  may  not  be  able  to  experience  a  symphony,  even 
after  twenty  performances.  Initial  coherence  to-day 
may  be  dullness  to-morrow  probably  because  formal 
or  outward  unity  depends  so  much  on  repetition, 
sequences,  antitheses,  paragraphs  with  inductions 
and  summaries.  Macaulay  had  that  kind  of  unity. 
Can  you  read  him  to-day?  Emerson  rather  goes 
out  and  shouts :  "  I'm  thinking  of  the  sun's  glory  to-day 
and  I'll  let  his  light  shine  through  me.  I'll  say  any 
damn  thing  that  this  inspires  me  with.  Perhaps  there 
are  flashes  of  light,  still  in  cipher,  kept  there  by  unity, 
the  code  of  which  the  world  has  not  yet  discovered. 
The  unity  of  one  sentence  inspires  the  unity  of  the 
whole — though  its  physique  is  as  ragged  as  the 
Dolomites. 


28  EMERSON 

Intense  lights — vague  shadows — great  pillars  in 
a  horizon  are  difficult  things  to  nail  signboards  to. 
Emerson's  outward-inward  qualities  make  him  hard 
to  classify,  but  easy  for  some.  There  are  many  who 
like  to  say  that  he — even  all  the  Concord  men — are 
intellectuals.  Perhaps — but  intellectuals  who  wear 
their  brains  nearer  the  heart  than  some  of  their 
critics.  It  is  as  dangerous  to  determine  a  character- 
istic by  manner  as  by  mood.  Emerson  is  a  pure  intel- 
lectual to  those  who  prefer  to  take  him  as  literally 
as  they  can.  There  are  reformers,  and  in  "the  form" 
lies  their  interest,  who  prefer  to  stand  on  the  plain, 
and  then  insist  they  see  from  the  summit.  Indolent 
legs  supply  the  strength  of  eye  for  their  inspiration. 
The  intellect  is  never  a  whole.  It  is  where  the  soul 
finds  things.  It  is  often  the  only  track  to  the  over- 
values. It  appears  a  whole — but  never  becomes  one 
even  in  the  stock  exchange,  or  the  convent,  or  the 
laboratory.  In  the  cleverest  criminal,  it  is  but  a  way 
to  a  low  ideal.  It  can  never  discard  the  other  part 
of  its  duality — the  soul  or  the  void  where  the  soul 
ought  to  be.  So  why  classify  a  quality  always  so 
relative  that  it  is  more  an  agency  than  substance; 
a  quality  that  disappears  when  classified.  "The  life 
of  the  All  must  stream  through  us  to  make  the  man 
and  the  moment  great."  A  sailor  with  a  precious 
cargo  doesn't  analyze  the  water. 

Because  Emerson  had  generations  of  Calvinistic 
sermons  in  his  blood,  some  cataloguers,  would  localize 
or  provincialize  him,  with  the  sternness  of  the  old 
Puritan  mind.  They  make  him  that,  hold  him  there. 
They  lean  heavily  on  what  they  find  of  the  above 


EMERSON  29 

influence  in  him.  They  won't  follow  the  rivers  in  his 
thought  and  the  play  of  his  soul.  And  their  cousin 
cataloguers  put  him  in  another  pigeon-hole.  They 
label  him  "ascetic."  They  translate  his  outward 
serenity  into  an  impression  of  severity.  But  truth 
keeps  one  from  being  hysterical.  Is  a  demagogue  a 
friend  of  the  people  because  he  will  lie  to  them  to 
make  them  cry  and  raise  false  hopes?  A  search  for 
perfect  truths  throws  out  a  beauty  more  spiritual 
than  sensuous.  A  sombre  dignity  of  style  is  often 
confused  by  under-imagination  and  by  surface-senti- 
ment, with  austerity.  If  Emerson's  manner  is  not 
always  beautiful  in  accordance  with  accepted  stand- 
ards, why  not  accept  a  few  other  standards?  He  is 
an  ascetic,  in  that  he  refuses  to  compromise  content 
with  manner.  But  a  real  ascetic  is  an  extremist  who 
has  but  one  height.  Thus  may  come  the  confusion, 
of  one  who  says  that  Emerson  carries  him  high,  but 
then  leaves  him  always  at  that  height — no  higher — 
a  confusion,  mistaking  a  latent  exultation  for  an 
ascetic  reserve.  The  rules  of  Thorough  Bass  can  be 
applied  to  his  scale  of  flight  no  more  than  they  can  to 
the  planetary  system.  Jadassohn,  if  Emerson  were 
literally  a  composer,  could  no  more  analyze  his 
harmony  than  a  guide-to-Boston  could.  A  micro- 
scope might  show  that  he  uses  chords  of  the  9th,  i  ith, 
or  the  99th,  but  a  lens  far  different  tells  us  they  are 
used  with  different  aims  from  those  of  Debussy. 
Emerson  is  definite  in  that  his  art  is  based  on  some- 
thing stronger  than  the  amusing  or  at  its  best  the 
beguiling  of  a  few  mortals.  If  he  uses  a  sensuous 
chord,  it  is  not  for  sensual  ears.     His  harmonies  may 


30  EMERSON 

float,  if  the  wind  blows  in  that  direction,  through  a 
voluptuous  atmosphere,  but  he  has  not  Debussy's 
fondness  for  trying  to  blow  a  sensuous  atmosphere 
from  his  own  voluptuous  cheeks.  And  so  he  is  an 
ascetic!  There  is  a  distance  between  jowl  and  soul 
— and  it  is  not  measured  by  the  fraction  of  an  inch 
between  Concord  and  Paris.  On  the  other  hand,  if 
one  thinks  that  his  harmony  contains  no  dramatic 
chords,  because  no  theatrical  sound  is  heard,  let  him 
listen  to  the  finale  of  "Success,"  or  of  "Spiritual 
Laws,"  or  to  some  of  the  poems,  "Brahma"  or 
"Sursum  Corda,"  for  example.  Of  a  truth  his  Codas 
often  seem  to  crystallize  in  a  dramatic,  though  serene 
and  sustained  way,  the  truths  of  his  subject — they 
become  more  active  and  intense,  but  quieter  and 
deeper. 

Then  there  comes  along  another  set  of  cataloguers. 
The}^  put  him  down  as  a  "classist,"  or  a  romanticist, 
or  an  eclectic.  Because  a  prophet  is  a  child  of  roman- 
ticism— because  revelation  is  classic,  because  eclecti- 
cism quotes  from  eclectic  Hindu  Philosophy,  a  more 
sympathetic  cataloguer  may  say,  that  Emerson  in- 
spires courage  of  the  quieter  kind  and  delight  of  the 
higher  kind. 

The  same  well-bound  school  teacher  who  told  the 
boys  that  Thoreau  was  a  naturalist  because  he  didn't 
like  to  work,  puts  down  Emerson  as  a  "classic,"  and 
Hawthorne  as  a  "romantic."  A  loud  voice  made  this 
doubly  true  and  sure  to  be  on  the  examination  paper. 
But  this  teacher  of  "truth  and  dogma"  apparently 
forgot  that  there  is  no  such  thing  as  "classicism  or 
romanticism."     One  has  but  to  go  to  the  various 


EMERSON  31 

definitions  of  these  to  know  that.  If  you  go  to  a 
classic  definition  you  know  what  a  true  classic  is, 
and  similarly  a  ''true  romantic."  But  if  you  go  to 
both,  you  have  an  algebraic  formula,  x  =  x,  a  cancella- 
tion, an  apercu,  and  hence  satisfying ;  if  you  go  to  all 
definitions  you  have  another  formula  x  >  x,  a  destruc- 
tion, another  apercu,  and  hence  satisfying.  Professor 
Beers  goes  to  the  dictionary  (you  wouldn't  think  a 
college  professor  would  be  as  reckless  as  that).  And 
so  he  can  say  that  "romantic"  is  "pertaining  to  the 
style  of  the  Christian  and  popular  literature  of  the 
Middle  Ages," — a  Roman  Catholic  mode  of  salva- 
tion (not  this  definition  but  having  a  definition). 
And  so  Prof.  B.  can  say  that  Walter  Scott  is  a 
romanticist  (and  Billy  Phelps  a  classic — sometimes). 
But  for  our  part  Dick  Croker  is  a  classic  and  Job  a 
romanticist.  Another  professor.  Babbitt  by  name, 
links  up  Romanticism  with  Rousseau,  and  charges 
against  it  many  of  man's  troubles.  He  somehow 
likes  to  mix  it  up  with  sin.  He  throws  saucers 
at  it,  but  in  a  scholarly,  interesting,  sincere,  and 
accurate  way.  He  uncovers  a  deformed  foot, 
gives  it  a  name,  from  which  we  are  allowed  to  infer 
that  the  covered  foot  is  healthy  and  named  classi- 
cism. But  no  Christian  Scientist  can  prove  that 
Christ  never  had  a  stomach  ache.  The  Architecture 
of  Humanism  ^  tells  us  that  ' '  romanticism  consists  of 
...  a  poetic  sensibility  towards  the  remote,  as  such." 
But  is  Plato  a  classic  or  towards  the  remote?  Is 
Classicism  a  poor  relation  of  time — not  of  man?  Is 
a  thing  classic  or  romantic  because  it  is  or  is  not 
^  Geoffrey  Scott  (Constable  &  Co.) 


32  EMERSON 

passed  by  that  biologic — that  indescribable  stream- 
of-change  going  on  in  all  life?  Let  us  settle  the 
point  for  ''good,"  and  say  that  a  thing  is  classic  if  it 
is  thought  of  in  terms  of  the  past  and  romantic  if 
thought  of  in  terms  of  the  future — and  a  thing  thought 
of  in  terms  of  the  present  is — well,  that  is  impossible! 
Hence,  we  allow  ourselves  to  say,  that  Emerson  is 
neither  a  classic  or  romantic  but  both — and  both  not 
only  at  different  times  in  one  essay,  but  at  the  same 
time  in  one  sentence — in  one  word.  And  must  we 
admit  it,  so  is  everyone.  If  you  don't  believe  it, 
there  must  be  some  true  definition  you  haven't  seen. 
Chopin  shows  a  few  things  that  Bach  forgot — but 
he  is  not  eclectic,  they  say.  Brahms  shows  many 
things  that  Bach  did  remember,  so  he  is  an  eclectic, 
they  say.  Leoncavallo  writes  pretty  verses  and 
Palestrina  is  a  priest,  and  Confucius  inspires  Scriabin. 
A  choice  is  freedom.  Natural  selection  is  but  one  of 
Nature's  tunes.  "All  melodious  poets  shall  be  hoarse 
as  street  ballads,  when  once  the  penetrating  keynote 
of  nature  and  spirit  is  sounded — the  earth-beat, 
sea-beat,  heart-beat,  which  make  the  tune  to  which 
the  sun  rolls,  and  the  globule  of  blood  and  the  sap  of 
the  trees." 

An  intuitive  sense  of  values,  tends  to  make  Emerson 
use  social,  political,  and  even  economic  phenomena, 
as  means  of  expression,  as  the  accidental  notes  in  his 
scale — rather  than  as  ends,  even  lesser  ends.  In 
the  realization  that  they  are  essential  parts  of  the 
greater  values,  he  does  not  confuse  them  with  each 
other.  He  remains  undisturbed  except  in  rare 
instances,  when  the  lower  parts  invade  and  seek  to 


EMERSON  33 

displace  the  higher.  He  was  not  afraid  to  say  that 
"there  are  laws  which  should  not  be  too  well  obeyed." 
To  him,  slavery  was  not  a  social  or  a  political  or  an 
economic  question,  nor  even  one  of  morals  or  of 
ethics,  but  one  of  universal  spiritual  freedom  only. 
It  mattered  little  what  party,  or  what  platform,  or 
what  law  of  commerce  governed  men.  Was  man 
governing  himself?  Social  error  and  virtue  were 
but  relative. 

This  habit  of  not  being  hindered  by  using,  but  still 
going  beyond  the  great  truths  of  living,  to  the  greater 
truths  of  life  gave  force  to  his  influence  over  the 
materialists.  Thus  he  seems  to  us  more  a  regenerator 
than  a  reformer — more  an  interpreter  of  life's  reflexes 
than  of  life's  facts,  perhaps.  Here  he  appears  greater 
than  Voltaire  or  Rousseau  and  helped,  perhaps,  by 
the  centrality  of  his  conceptions,  he  could  arouse  the 
deeper  spiritual  and  moral  emotions,  without  causing 
his  listeners  to  distort  their  physical  ones.  To  prove 
that  mind  is  over  matter,  he  doesn't  place  matter 
over  mind.  He  is  not  like  the  man  who,  because  he 
couldn't  afford  both,  gave  up  metaphysics  for  an 
automobile,  and  when  he  ran  over  a  man  blamed 
metaphysics.  He  would  not  have  us  get  over-excited 
about  physical  disturbance  but  have  it  accepted  as 
a  part  of  any  progress  in  culture,  moral,  spiritual  or 
aesthetic.  If  a  poet  retires  to  the  mountain-side,  to 
avoid  the  vulgar  unculture  of  men,  and  their  physical 
disturbance,  so  that  he  may  better  catch  a  nobler 
theme  for  his  symphony,  Emerson  tells  him  that 
"man's  culture  can  spare  nothing,  wants  all  material, 
converts  all  impediments  into  instruments,  all  enemies 

3 


34  EMERSON 

into  power."  The  latest  product  of  man's  culture — 
the  aeroplane,  then  sails  o'er  the  mountain  and 
instead  of  an  inspiration — a  spray  of  tobacco-juice 
falls  on  the  poet.  "Calm  yourself,  Poet!"  says 
Emei*son,  "culture  will  convert  furies  into  muses 
and  hells  into  benefit.  This  wouldn't  have  befallen 
you  if  it  hadn't  been  for  the  latest  transcendent  pro- 
duct of  the  genius  of  culture"  (we  won't  say  what 
kind),  a  consummation  of  the  dreams  of  poets,  from 
David  to  Tennyson.  Material  progress  is  but  a 
means  of  expression.  Realize  that  man's  coarseness 
has  its  future  and  will  also  be  refined  in  the  gradual 
uprise.  Turning  the  world  upside  down  may  be  one 
of  its  lesser  incidents.  It  is  the  cause,  seldom  the 
effect  that  interests  Emerson.  He  can  help  the  cause 
— the  effect  must  help  itself.  He  might  have  said 
to  those  who  talk  knowingly  about  the  cause  of  war 
— or  of  the  last  war,  and  who  would  trace  it  down 
through  long  vistas  of  cosmic,  political,  moral  evolu- 
tion and  what  not — he  might  say  that  the  cause  of 
it  was  as  simple  as  that  of  any  dog-fight — the  "hog- 
mind"  of  the  minority  against  the  universal  mind, 
the  majority.  The  un-courage  of  the  former  fears 
to  believe  in  the  innate  goodness  of  mankind.  The 
cause  is  always  the  same,  the  effect  different  by 
chance;  it  is  as  easy  for  a  hog,  even  a  stupid  one, 
to  step  on  a  box  of  matches  under  a  tenement  with 
a  thousand  souls,  as  under  an  empty  bird-house. 
The  many  kindly  burn  up  for  the  few ;  for  the  minor- 
ity is  selfish  and  the  majority  generous.  The  minority 
has  ruled  the  world  for  physical  reasons.  The 
physical  reasons  are  being  removed  by  this  "convert- 


EMERSON  35 

ing  culture."  Webster  will  not  much  longer  have  to 
grope  for  the  mind  of  his  constituency.  The  majority 
— the  people — will  need  no  intermediary.  Govern- 
ments will  pass  from  the  representative  to  the  direct. 
The  hog-mind  is  the  principal  thing  that  is  making 
this  transition  slow.  The  biggest  prop  to  the  hog- 
mind  is  pride — pride  in  property  and  the  power  prop- 
erty gives.  Ruskin  backs  this  up — "it  is  at  the 
bottom  of  all  great  mistakes;  other  passions  do 
occasional  good,  but  whenever  pride  puts  in  its  word 
.  .  .  it  is  all  over  with  the  artist."  The  hog-mind 
and  its  handmaidens  in  disorder,  superficial  bright- 
ness, fundamental  dullness,  then  cowardice  and  sus- 
picion— all  a  part  of  the  minority  (the  non-people) 
the  antithesis  of  everything  called  soul,  spirit,  Chris- 
tianity, truth,  freedom — will  give  way  more  and  more 
to  the  great  primal  truths — that  there  is  more  good 
than  evil,  that  God  is  on  the  side  of  the  majority 
(the  people) — that  he  is  not  enthusiastic  about  the 
minority  (the  non-people) — that  he  has  made  men 
greater  than  man,  that  he  has  made  the  universal 
mind  and  the  over-soul  greater  and  a  part  of  the 
individual  mind  and  soul — that  he  has  made  the 
Divine  a  part  of  all. 

Again,  if  a  picture  in  economics  is  before  him, 
Emerson  plunges  down  to  the  things  that  are  because 
they  are  better  than  they  are.  If  there  is  a  row,  which 
there  usually  is,  between  the  ebb  and  flood  tide,  in 
the  material  ocean — for  example,  between  the  theory 
of  the  present  order  of  competition,  and  of  attractive 
and  associated  labor,  he  would  sympathize  with 
Ricardo,  perhaps,  that  labor  is  the  measure  of  value, 


36  EMERSON 

but  "embrace,  as  do  generous  minds,  the  proposition 
of  labor  shared  by  all."  He  would  go  deeper  than 
political  economics,  strain  out  the  self-factor  from 
both  theories,  and  make  the  measure  of  each  pretty 
much  the  same,  so  that  the  natural  (the  majority) 
would  win,  but  not  to  the  disadvantage  of  the  minor- 
ity (the  artificial)  because  this  has  disappeared — it 
is  of  the  majority.  John  Stuart  Mill's  political 
economy  is  losing  value  because  it  was  written  by  a 
mind  more  "a  banker's"  than  a  "poet's."  The  poet 
knows  that  there  is  no  such  thing  as  the  perpetual  law 
of  supply  and  demand,  perhaps  not  of  demand  and 
supply — or  of  the  wage-fund,  or  price-level,  or  incre- 
ments earned  or  unearned;  and  that  the  existence  of 
personal  or  public  property  may  not  prove  the  exist- 
ence of  God. 

Emerson  seems  to  use  the  great  definite  inter- 
ests of  humanity  to  express  the  greater,  indefinite, 
spiritual  values — to  fulfill  what  he  can  in  his  realms 
of  revelation.  Thus,  it  seems  that  so  close  a  relation 
exists  between  his  content  and  expression,  his  sub- 
stance and  manner,  that  if  he  were  more  definite  in 
the  latter  he  would  lose  power  in  the  former, — perhaps 
some  of  those  occasional  flashes  would  have  been  un- 
expressed— flashes  that  have  gone  down  through  the 
world  and  will  flame  on  through  the  ages — flashes  that 
approach  as  near  the  Divine  as  Beethoven  in  his  most 
inspired  moments — flashes  of  transcendent  beauty, 
of  such  universal  import,  that  they  may  bring,  of  a' 
sudden,  some  intimate  personal  experience,  and  pro- 
duce the  same  indescribable  effect  that  comes  in  rare 
instances,  to  men,  from  some  common  sensation.     In 


EMERSON  37 

the  early  morning  of  a  Memorial  Day,  a  boy  is  awak- 
ened by  martial  music — a  village  band  is  marching 
down  the  street,  and  as  the  strains  of  Reeves'  majestic 
Seventh  Regiment  March  come  nearer  and  nearer, 
he  seems  of  a  sudden  translated — a  moment  of  vivid 
power  comes,  a  consciousness  of  material  nobility, 
an  exultant  something  gleaming  with  the  possibilities 
of  this  life,  an  assurance  that  nothing  is  impossible, 
and  that  the  whole  world  lies  at  his  feet.  But  as  the 
band  turns  the  corner,  at  the  soldiers'  monument, 
and  the  march  steps  of  the  Grand  Army  become  fainter 
and  fainter,  the  boy's  vision  slowly  vanishes — his 
"world"  becomes  less  and  less  probable — but  the 
experience  ever  lies  within  him  in  its  reality.  Later 
in  life,  the  same  boy  hears  the  Sabbath  morning  bell 
ringing  out  from  the  white  steeple  at  the  "Center," 
and  as  it  draws  him  to  it,  through  the  autumn  fields 
of  sumach  and  asters,  a  Gospel  hymn  of  simple 
devotion  comes  out  to  him — "There's  a  wideness  in 
God's  mercy" — an  instant  suggestion  of  that  Memo- 
rial Day  morning  comes — but  the  moment  is  of  deeper 
import — there  is  no  personal  exultation — no  intimate 
world  vision — no  magnified  personal  hope — and  in 
their  place  a  profound  sense  of  a  spiritual  truth, — a  sin 
within  reach  of  forgiveness — and  as  the  hymn  voices  die 
away,  there  lies  at  his  feet — not  the  world,  but  the 
figure  of  the  Saviour — he  sees  an  unfathomable  cour- 
age, an  immortality  for  the  lowest,  the  vastness  in 
humility,  the  kindness  of  the  human  heart,  man's 
noblest  strength,  and  he  knows  that  God  is  nothing 
— nothing  but  love!  Whence  cometh  the  wonder  of 
a  moment?     From  sources  we  know  not.     But  we 


38  EMERSON 

do  know  that  from  obscurity,  and  from  this  higher 
Orpheus  come  measures  of  sphere  melodies^  flowing 
in  wild,  native  tones,  ravaging  the  souls  of  men,  flow- 
ing now  with  thousand-fold  accompaniments  and 
rich  symphonies  through  all  our  hearts;  modulating 
and  divinely  leading  them. 

Ill 

What  is  character?  In  how  far  does  it  sustain  the 
soul  or  the  soul  it  ?  Is  it  a  part  of  the  soul  ?  And  then 
— what  is  the  soul?  Plato  knows  but  cannot  tell 
us.  Every  new-born  man  knows,  but  no  one  tells 
us.  "Nature  will  not  be  disposed  of  easily.  No 
power  of  genius  has  ever  yet  had  the  smallest  success 
in  explaining  existence.  The  perfect  enigma  remains. ' ' 
As  every  blind  man  sees  the  sun,  so  character  may  be 
the  part  of  the  soul  we,  the  blind,  can  see,  and  then 
have  the  right  to  imagine  that  the  soul  is  each  man's 
share  of  God,  and  character  the  muscle  which  tries 
to  reveal  its  mysteries — a  kind  of  its  first  visible 
radiance — the  right  to  know  that  it  is  the  voice  which 
is  always  calling  the  pragmatist  a  fool. 

At  any  rate,  it  can  be  said  that  Emerson's  character 
has  much  to  do  with  his  power  upon  us.  Men  who 
have  known  nothing  of  his  life,  have  borne  witness 
to  this.  It  is  directly  at  the  root  of  his  substance, 
and  affects  his  manner  only  indirectly.  It  gives  the 
sincerity  to  the  constant  spiritual  hopefulness  we 
are  always  conscious  of,  and  which  carries  with  it 
often,  even  when  the  expression  is  somber,   a  note 

*  Paraphrased  from  a  passage  in  Sartor  Resartus. 


EMERSON  39 

of  exultation  in  the  victories  of  "the  innate  virtues" 
of  man.  And  it  is  this,  perhaps,  that  makes  us  feel 
his  courage — not  a  self-courage,  but  a  sympathetic 
one — courageous  even  to  tenderness.  It  is  the  open 
courage  of  a  kind  heart,  of  not  forcing  opinions — a 
thing  much  needed  when  the  cowardly,  underhanded 
courage  of  the  fanatic  would  force  opinion.  It  is  the 
courage  of  believing  in  freedom,  per  se,  rather  than 
of  trying  to  force  everyone  to  see  that  you  believe  in  it 
— the  courage  of  the  willingness  to  be  reformed, 
rather  than  of  reforming — the  courage  teaching  that 
sacrifice  is  bravery,  and  force,  fear.  The  courage  of 
righteous  indignation,  of  stammering  eloquence,  of 
spiritual  insight,  a  courage  ever  contracting  or  unfold- 
ing a  philosophy  as  it  grows — a  courage  that  would 
make  the  impossible  possible.  Oliver  Wendell  Holmes 
says  that  Emerson  attempted  the  impossible  in  the 
Over- Soul — "an  overflow  of  spiritual  imagination." 
But  he  (Emerson)  accomplished  the  impossible  in 
attempting  it,  and  still  leaving  it  impossible.  A 
courageous  struggle  to  satisfy,  as  Thoreau  saj^s, 
"Hunger  rather  than  the  palate" — the  hunger  of  a 
lifetime  sometimes  by  one  meal.  His  essay  on  the 
Pre-Soul  (which  he  did  not  write)  treats  of  that  part 
of  the  over-soul's  influence  on  unborn  ages,  and 
attempts  the  impossible  only  when  it  stops  attempt- 
ing it. 

Like  all  courageous  souls,  the  higher  Emerson  soars, 
the  more  lowly  he  becomes.  "Do  you  think  the 
porter  and  the  cook  have  no  experiences,  no  wonders 
for  you?  Everyone  knows  as  much  as  the  Savant." 
To  some,  the  way  to  be  humble  is  to  admonish  the 


40  EMERSON 

humble,  not  learn  from  them.  Carlyle  would  have 
Emerson  teach  by  more  definite  signs,  rather  than 
interpret  his  revelations,  or  shall  we  say  preach? 
Admitting  all  the  inspiration  and  help  that  Sartor 
Resartus  has  given  in  spite  of  its  vaudeville  and 
tragic  stages,  to  many  young  men  getting  under  way 
in  the  life  of  tailor  or  king,  we  believe  it  can  be  said 
(but  very  broadly  said)  that  Emerson,  either  in  the 
first  or  second  series  of  essays,  taken  as  a  whole,  gives, 
it  seems  to  us,  greater  inspiration,  partly  because 
his  manner  is  less  didactic,  less  personally  suggestive, 
perhaps  less  clearly  or  obviously  human  than  Carlyle's. 
How  direct  this  inspiration  is  a  matter  of  personal 
viewpoint,  temperament,  perhaps  inheritance.  Au- 
gustine Birrell  says  he  does  not  feel  it — and  he  seems 
not  to  even  indirectly.  Apparently  "a  non-sequa- 
cious author"  can't  inspire  him,  for  Emerson,  seems 
to  him  a  "little  thin  and  vague."  Is  Emerson  or  the 
English  climate  to  blame  for  this^  He,  Birrell,  says 
a  really  great  author  dissipates  all  fears  as  to  his 
staying-power.  (Though  fears  for  our  staying-power, 
not  Emerson's,  is  what  we  would  like  dissipated.) 
Besides,  around  a  really  great  author,  there  are  no 
fears  to  dissipate.  "A  wise  author  never  allows  his 
reader's  mind  to  be  at  large,"  but  Emerson  is  not  a 
wise  author.  His  essay  on  Prudence  has  nothing  to 
do  with  prudence,  for  to  be  wise  and  prudent  he  must 
put  explanation  first,  and  let  his  substance  dissolve 
because  of  it.  "How  carefully,"  says  Birrell  again, 
"a  really  great  author  like  Dr.  Newman,  or  M. 
Renan,  explains  to  you  what  he  is  going  to  do,  and 
how  he  is  going  to  do  it."     Personally  we  like  the 


EMERSON  41 

chance  of  having  a  hand  in  the  "explaining."  We 
prefer  to  look  at  flowers,  but  not  through  a  botany, 
for  it  seems  that  if  we  look  at  them  alone,  we  see  a 
beauty  of  Nature's  poetry,  a  direct  gift  from  the 
Divine,  and  if  we  look  at  botany  alone,  we  see  the 
beauty  of  Nature's  intellect,  a  direct  gift  of  the  Divine 
— if  we  look  at  both  together,  we  see  nothing. 

Thus  it  seems  that  Carlyle  and  Birrell  would  have 
it  that  courage  and  humility  have  something  to  do 
with  "explanation" — and  that  it  is  not  "a  respect 
for  all" — a  faith  in  the  power  of  "innate  virtue"  to 
perceive  by  "relativeness  rather  than  penetration" — 
that  causes  Emerson  to  withhold  explanation  to  a 
greater  degree  than  many  writers.  Carlyle  asks 
for  more  utility,  and  Birrell  for  more  inspiration. 
But  we  like  to  believe  that  it  is  the  height  of 
Emerson's  character,  evidenced  especially  in  his 
courage  and  humility  that  shades  its  quality,  rather 
than  that  its  virtue  is  less — that  it  is  his  height  that 
will  make  him  more  and  more  valuable  and  more 
and  more  within  the  reach  of  all — whether  it  be  by 
utilit}^  inspiration,  or  other  needs  of  the  human  soul. 

Cannot  some  of  the  most  valuable  kinds  of  utility 
and  inspiration  come  from  humility  in  its  highest  and 
purest  forms  ?  For  is  not  the  truest  kind  of  humility 
a  kind  of  glorified  or  transcendent  democracy — the 
practicing  it  rather  than  the  talking  it — the  not- 
wanting  to  level  all  finite  things,  but  the  being  willing 
to  be  leveled  towards  the  infinite?  Until  humility 
produces  that  frame  of  mind  and  spirit  in  the  artist 
can  his  audience  gain  the  greatest  kind  of  utility  and 
inspiration,  which  might  be  quite  invisible  at  first? 


42  EMERSON 

Emerson  realizes  the  value  of  ''the  many,'' — that  the 
law  of  averages  has  a  divine  source.  He  recognizes 
the  various  life-values  i7i  reality — not  by  reason  of 
their  closeness  or  remoteness,  but  because  he  sym- 
pathizes with  men  who  live  them,  and  the  majority 
do.  "The  private  store  of  reason  is  not  great — would 
that  there  were  a  pubHc  store  for  man,"  cries  Pascal, 
but  there  is,  says  Emerson,  it  is  the  universal  mind, 
an  institution  congenital  with  the  common  or  over- 
soul.  Pascal  is  discouraged,  for  he  lets  himself  be  in- 
fluenced by  surface  political  and  religious  history  which 
shows  the  struggle  of  the  group,  led  by  an  individual, 
rather  than  that  of  the  individual  led  by  himself — a 
struggle  as  much  privately  caused  as  privately  led. 
The  main-path  of  all  social  progress  has  been  spiritual 
rather  than  intellectual  in  character,  but  the  many 
by-paths  of  individual-materialism,  though  never  oblit- 
erating the  highway,  have  dimmed  its  outlines  and 
caused  travelers  to  confuse  the  colors  along  the  road. 
A  more  natural  way  of  freeing  the  congestion  in  the 
benefits  of  material  progress  will  make  it  less  difficult 
for  the  majority  to  recognize  the  true  relation  be- 
tween the  important  spiritual  and  religious  values 
and  the  less  important  intellectual  and  economic 
values.  As  the  action  of  the  intellect  and  univer- 
sal mind  becomes  more  and  more  identical,  the 
clearer  will  the  relation  of  all  values  become.  But  for 
physical  reasons,  the  group  has  had  to  depend  upon 
the  individual  as  leaders,  and  the  leaders  with  few 
exceptions  restrained  the  universal  mind — they 
trusted  to  the  "private  store,"  but  now,  thanks  to 
the  lessons  of  evolution,  which  Nature  has  been  teach- 


EMERSON  43 

ing  men  since  and  before  the  days  of  Socrates,  the 
public  store  of  reason  is  gradually  taking  the  place 
of  the  once-needed  leader.  From  the  Chaldean 
tablet  to  the  wireless  message  this  public  store  has 
been  wonderfully  opened.  The  results  of  these  les- 
sons, the  possibilities  they  are  offering  for  ever  co- 
ordinating the  mind  of  humanity,  the  culmination  of 
this  age-instruction,  are  seen  to-day  in  many  ways. 
Labor  Federation,  Suffrage  Extension,  are  two  in- 
stances that  come  to  mind  among  the  many.  In  these 
manifestations,  by  reason  of  tradition,  or  the  bad- 
habit  part  of  tradition,  the  hog-mind  of  the  few  (the 
minority),  comes  in  play.  The  possessors  of  this 
are  called  leaders,  but  even  these  "thick-skins"  are 
beginning  to  see  that  the  movement  is  the  leader,  and 
that  they  are  only  clerks.  Broadly  speaking,  the 
effects  evidenced  in  the  political  side  of  history  have 
so  much  of  the  physical  because  the  causes  have  been 
so  much  of  the  physical.  As  a  result  the  leaders  for 
the  most  part  have  been  under-average  men,  with 
skins  thick,  wits  slick,  and  hands  quick  with  under- 
values, otherwise  they  would  not  have  become  leaders. 
But  the  day  of  leaders,  as  such,  is  gradually  closing — 
the  people  are  beginning  to  lead  themselves — the 
public  store  of  reason  is  slowly  being  opened — the 
common  universal  mind  and  the  common  over-soul 
is  slowly  but  inevitabh^  coming  into  its  own.  "Let 
a  man  believe  in  God,  not  in  names  and  places  and 
persons.  Let  the  great  soul  incarnated  in  some  poor 
.  .  .  sad  and  simple  Joan,  go  out  to  service  and  sweep 
chimneys  and  scrub  floors  ...  its  effulgent  day 
beams  cannot  be  muffled  ..."  and  then  "to  sweep 


44  EMERSON 

and  scrub  will  instantly  appear  supreme  and  beauti- 
ful actions  .  .  .  and  all  people  will  get  brooms  and 
mops."  Perhaps,  if  all  of  Emerson — his  works  and 
his  life — were  to  be  swept  away,  and  nothing  of  him 
but  the  record  of  the  following  incident  remained  to 
men — the  influence  of  his  soul  would  still  be  great. 
A  working  woman  after  coming  from  one  of  his  lec- 
tures said:  "I  love  to  go  to  hear  Emerson,  not  be- 
cause I  understand  him,  but  because  he  looks  as  though 
he  thought  everybody  was  as  good  as  he  was."  Is 
it  not  the  courage — the  spiritual  hopefulness  in  his 
humility  that  makes  this  story  possible  and  true? 
Is  it  not  this  trait  in  his  character  that  sets  him  above 
all  creeds — that  gives  him  inspired  belief  in  the  common 
mind  and  soul?  Is  it  not  this  courageous  universal- 
ism  that  gives  conviction  to  his  prophecy  and  that 
makes  his  S3^mphonies  of  revelation  begin  and  end 
with  nothing  but  the  strength  and  beauty  of  innate 
goodness  in  man,  in  Nature  and  in  God,  the  greatest 
and  most  inspiring  theme  of  Concord  Transcendental 
Philosophy,  as  we  hear  it. 

And  it  is  from  such  a  world-compelling  theme 
and  from  such  vantage  ground,  that  Emerson  rises  to 
almost  perfect  freedom  of  action,  of  thought  and  of 
soul,  in  any  direction  and  to  any  height.  A  vantage 
ground,  somewhat  vaster  than  Schelling's  conception 
of  transcendental  philosophy — "a  philosophy  of 
Nature  become  subjective."  In  Concord  it  includes 
the  objective  and  becomes  subjective  to  nothing  but 
freedom  and  the  absolute  law.  It  is  this  underlying 
courage  of  the  purest  humility  that  gives  Emerson 
that  outward  aspect  of  serenity  which  is  felt  to  so 


EMERSON  45 

great  an  extent  in  much  of  his  work,  especially  in  his 
codas  and  perorations.  And  within  this  poised 
strength,  we  are  conscious  of  that  "original  authentic 
fire"  which  Emerson  missed  in  Shelley — we  are  con- 
scious of  something  that  is  not  dispassionate,  something 
that  is  at  times  almost  turbulent — a  kind  of  furious 
calm  lying  deeply  in  the  conviction  of  the  eventual 
triumph  of  the  soul  and  its  union  with  God! 

Let  us  place  the  transcendent  Emerson  where  he, 
himself,  places  Milton,  in  Wordsworth's  apostrophe: 
"Pure  as  the  naked  heavens,  majestic,  free,  so  didst 
thou  travel  on  life's  common  way  in  cheerful 
Godliness." 

The  Godliness  of  spiritual  courage  and  hopefulness 
— these  fathers  of  faith  rise  to  a  glorified  peace  in  the 
depth  of  his  greater  perorations.  There  is  an  "  oracle ' ' 
at  the  beginning  of  the  Fifth  Symphony — in  those 
four  notes  lies  one  of  Beethoven's  greatest  messages. 
We  would  place  its  translation  above  the  relentless- 
ness  of  fate  knocking  at  the  door,  above  the  greater 
human-message  of  destiny,  and  strive  to  bring  it 
towards  the  spiritual  message  of  Emerson's  revela- 
tions— even  to  the  "common  heart"  of  Concord 
— the  Soul  of  humanity  knocking  at  the  door  of  the 
Divine  mysteries,  radiant  in  the  faith  that  it  will  be 
opened — and  the  human  become  the  Divine ! 


Ill 

HAWTHORNE 

The  substance  of  Hawthorne  is  so  dripping  wet 
with  the  supernatural,  the  phantasmal,  the  mystical 
— so  surcharged  with  adventures,  from  the  deeper 
picturesque  to  the  illusive  fantastic,  one  unconsciously 
finds  oneself  thinking  of  him  as  a  poet  of  greater 
imaginative  impulse  than  Emerson  or  Thoreau.  He 
was  not  a  greater  poet  possibly  than  they — but 
a  greater  artist.  Not  only  the  character  of  his 
substance,  but  the  care  in  his  manner  throws  his 
workmanship,  in  contrast  to  theirs,  into  a  kind  of 
bas-relief.  Like  Poe  he  quite  naturally  and  uncon- 
sciously reaches  out  over  his  subject  to  his  reader.  His 
mesmerism  seeks  to  mesmerize  us — beyond  Zenobia's 
sister.  But  he  is  too  great  an  artist  to  show  his 
hand  "in  getting  his  audience,"  as  Poe  and  Tschai- 
kowsky  occasionally  do.  His  intellectual  muscles 
are  too  strong  to  let  him  become  over-influenced, 
as  Ravel  and  Stravinsky  seem  to  be  by  the  morbidly 
fascinating — a  kind  of  false  beauty  obtained  by 
artistic  monotony.  However,  we  cannot  but  feel 
that  he  would  weave  his  spell  over  us — as  would  the 
Grimms  and  ^sop.  We  feel  as  much  under  magic 
as  the  "  Enchanted  Frog."     This  is  part  of  the  artist's 

46 


HAWTHORNE  47 

business.  The  effect  is  a  part  of  his  art-effort  in  its 
inception.  Emerson's  substance  and  even  his  manner 
has  little  to  do  with  a  designed  effect — his  thunder- 
bolts or  delicate  fragments  are  flashed  out  regardless 
— they  may  knock  us  down  or  just  spatter  us — it 
matters  little  to  him — but  Hawthorne  is  more  con- 
siderate; that  is,  he  is  more  artistic,  as  men  say. 

Hawthorne  may  be  more  noticeably  indigenous 
or  may  have  more  local  color,  perhaps  more  national 
color  than  his  Concord  contemporaries.  But  the 
work  of  anyone  who  is  somewhat  more  interested  in 
psychology  than  in  transcendental  philosophy,  will 
weave  itself  around  individuals  and  their  personalities. 
If  the  same  anyone  happens  to  live  in  Salem,  his 
work  is  likely  to  be  colored  by  the  Salem  wharves 
and  Salem  witches.  If  the  same  anyone  happens  to 
live  in  the  ''Old  Manse"  near  the  Concord  Battle 
Bridge,  he  is  likely  "of  a  rainy  day  to  betake  himself 
to  the  huge  garret,"  the  secrets  of  which  he  wonders 
at,  "but  is  too  reverent  of  their  dust  and  cobwebs  to 
disturb."  He  is  likely  to  "bow  below  the  shriveled 
canvas  of  an  old  (Puritan)  clergyman  in  wig  and  gown 
— the  parish  priest  of  a  century  ago — a  friend  of 
Whitefield."  He  is  likely  to  come  under  the  spell 
of  this  reverend  Ghost  who  haunts  the  "Manse" 
and  as  it  rains  and  darkens  and  the  sky  glooms  through 
the  dusty  attic  windows,  he  is  likely  "to  muse  deeply 
and  wonderingly  upon  the  humiliating  fact  that  the 
works  of  man's  intellect  decay  like  those  of  his  hands" 
.  .  .  "that  thought  grows  moldy,"  and  as  the  garret 
is  in  Massachusetts,  the  "thought"  and  the  "mold" 
are  likely  to  be  quite  native.     When  the  same  anyone 


48  HAWTHORNE 

puts  his  poetry  into  novels  rather  than  essays,  he  is 
likely  to  have  more  to  say  about  the  life  around  him — 
about  the  inherited  mystery  of  the  town — than  a 
poet  of  philosophy  is. 

In  Hawthorne's  usual  vicinity,  the  atmosphere  was 
charged  with  the  somber  errors  and  romance  of  eight- 
eenth century  New  England, — ascetic  or  noble  New 
England  as  you  like.  A  novel,  of  necessity,  nails  an 
art-effort  down  to  some  definite  part  or  parts  of  the 
earth's  surface — the  novelist's  wagon  can't  always 
be  hitched  to  a  star.  To  say  that  Hawthorne  was 
more  deeply  interested  than  some  of  the  other  Con- 
cord writers — Emerson,  for  example — in  the  idealism 
peculiar  to  his  native  land  (in  so  far  as  such  idealism 
of  a  country  can  be  conceived  of  as  separate  from  the 
political)  would  be  as  unreasoning  as  to  hold  that  he 
was  more  interested  in  social  progress  than  Thoreau, 
because  he  was  in  the  consular  service  and  Thoreau 
was  in  no  one's  service — or  that  the  War  Governor  of 
Massachusetts  was  a  greater  patriot  than  Wendell 
Phillips,  who  was  ashamed  of  all  political  parties. 
Hawthorne's  art  was  true  and  typically  American 
— as  is  the  art  of  all  men  living  in  America  who  believe 
in  freedom  of  thought  and  who  live  wholesome  lives 
to  prove  it,  whatever  their  means  of  expression. 

Any  comprehensive  conception  of  Hawthorne, 
either  in  words  or  music,  must  have  for  its  basic  theme 
something  that  has  to  do  with  the  influence  of  sin 
upon  the  conscience — something  more  than  the  Puri- 
tan conscience,  but  something  which  is  permeated 
by  it.  In  this  relation  he  is  wont  to  use  what  Hazlitt 
calls  the  "moral  power  of  imagination."     Hawthorne 


HAWTHORNE  49 

would  try  to  spiritualize  a  guilty  conscience.  He 
would  sing  of  the  relentlessness  of  guilt,  the  inherit- 
ance of  guilt,  the  shadow  of  guilt  darkening  innocent 
posterity.  All  of  its  sins  and  morbid  horrors,  its 
specters,  its  phantasmas,  and  even  its  hellish  hope- 
lessness play  around  his  pages,  and  vanishing  between 
the  lines  are  the  less  guilty  Elves  of  the  Concord 
Elms,  which  Thoreau  and  Old  Man  Alcott  may  have 
felt,  but  knew  not  as  intimately  as  Hawthorne.  There 
is  often  a  pervading  melancholy  about  Hawthorne,  as 
Faguet  says  of  de  Musset  ''without  posture,  without 
noise  but  penetrating."  There  is  at  times  the  mysti- 
cism and  serenity  of  the  ocean,  which  Jules  Michelet 
sees  in  "its  horizon  rather  than  in  its  waters."  There 
is  a  sensitiveness  to  supernatural  sound  waves. 
Hawthorne  feels  the  mysteries  and  tries  to  paint 
them  rather  than  explain  them — and  here,  some  may 
say  that  he  is  wiser  in  a  more  practical  way  and  so 
more  artistic  than  Emerson.  Perhaps  so,  but  no 
greater  in  the  deeper  ranges  and  profound  mysteries 
of  the  interrelated  worlds  of  human  and  spiritual  life. 
This  fundamental  part  of  Hawthorne  is  not  at- 
tempted in  our  music  (the  26.  movement  of  the  series) 
which  is  but  an  "extended  fragment"  trying  to  sug- 
gest some  of  his  wilder,  fantastical  adventures  into 
the  half -childlike,  half -fairy  like  phantasmal  realms. 
It  may  have  something  to  do  with  the  children's 
excitement  on  that  "frosty  Berkshire  morning,  and 
the  frost  imagery  on  the  enchanted  hall  window"  or 
something  to  do  with  "Feathertop,"  the  "Scarecrow," 
and  his  "Looking  Glass"  and  the  little  demons  danc- 
ing around  his  pipe  bowl;  or  something  to  do  with  the 


50  HAWTHORNE 

old  hymn  tune  that  haunts  the  church  and  sings 
only  to  those  in  the  churchyard,  to  protect  them 
from  secular  noises,  as  when  the  circus  parade  comes 
down  Main  Street;  or  something  to  do  with  the  concert 
at  the  Stamford  camp  meeting,  or  the  "Slave's 
Shuffle";  or  something  to  do  with  the  Concord  he- 
nymph,  or  the  "Seven  Vagabonds,"  or  "Circe's 
Palace,"  or  something  else  in  the  wonderbook — not 
something  that  happens,  but  the  way  something 
happens;  or  something  to  do  with  the  "Celestial 
Railroad,"  or  "Phoebe's  Garden,"  or  something  per- 
sonal, which  tries  to  be  "national"  suddenly  at 
twilight,  and  universal  suddenly  at  midnight;  or 
something  about  the  ghost  of  a  man  who  never  lived, 
or  about  something  that  never  will  happen,  or 
something  else  that  is  not. 


IV 

"THE   ALCOTTS" 

If  the  dictagraph  had  been  perfected  in  Bronson 
Alcott's  time,  he  might  now  be  a  great  writer.  As  it 
is,  he  goes  down  as  Concord's  greatest  talker.  "Great 
expecter,"  says  Thoreau;  "great  feller,"  says  Sam 
Staples,  "for  talkin'  big  .  .  .  but  his  daughters  is 
the  gals  though — always  doin'  somethin'."  Old  Man 
Alcott,  however,  was  usually  "  doin'  somethin'" 
within.  An  internal  grandiloquence  made  him  melo- 
dious without;  an  exuberant,  irrepressible,  visionary 
absorbed  with  philosophy  as  such;  to  him  it  was  a 
kind  of  transcendental  business,  the  profits  of  which 
supported  his  inner  man  rather  than  his  family.  Ap- 
parently his  deep  interest  in  spiritual  physics,  rather 
than  metaphysics,  gave  a  kind  of  hypnotic  mellifluous 
effect  to  his  voice  when  he  sang  his  oracles ;  a  manner 
something  of  a  cross  between  an  inside  pompous 
self-assertion  and  an  outside  serious  benevolence. 
But  he  was  sincere  and  kindly  intentioned  in  his 
eagerness  to  extend  what  he  could  of  the  better  influ- 
ence of  the  philosophic  world  as  he  saw  it.  In  fact, 
there  is  a  strong  didactic  streak  in  both  father  and 
daughter.  Louisa  May  seldom  misses  a  chance  to 
bring  out  the  moral  of  a  homely  virtue.     The  power 

51 


52  "THE  ALCOTTS" 

of  repetition  was  to  them  a  natural  means  of  illustra- 
tion. It  is  said  that  the  elder  Alcott,  while  teaching 
school,  would  frequently  whip  himself  when  the 
scholars  misbehaved,  to  show  that  the  Divine  Teacher 
— God — was  pained  when  his  children  of  the  earth 
were  bad.  Quite  often  the  boy  next  to  the  bad  boy 
was  punished,  to  show  how  sin  involved  the  guiltless. 
And  Miss  Alcott  is  fond  of  working  her  story  around, 
so  that  she  can  better  rub  in  a  moral  precept — and 
the  moral  sometimes  browbeats  the  story.  But  with 
all  the  elder  Alcott's  vehement,  impracticable,  vision- 
ary qualities,  there  was  a  sturdiness  and  a  courage — 
at  least,  we  like  to  think  so.  A  Yankee  boy  who 
would  cheerfully  travel  in  those  days,  when  distances 
were  long  and  unmotored,  as  far  from  Connecticut 
as  the  Carolinas,  earning  his  way  by  peddling,  lay- 
ing down  his  pack  to  teach  school  when  opportunity 
offered,  must  possess  a  basic  sturdiness.  This  was 
apparently  not  very  evident  when  he  got  to  preaching 
his  idealism.  An  incident  in  Alcott's  life  helps  con- 
firm a  theory — not  a  popular  one — that  men  accus- 
tomed to  wander  around  in  the  visionary  unknown 
are  the  quickest  and  strongest  when  occasion  requires 
ready  action  of  the  lower  virtues.  It  often  appears 
that  a  contemplative  mind  is  more  capable  of  action 
than  an  actively  objective  one.  Dr.  Emerson  says: 
"It  is  good  to  know  that  it  has  been  recorded 
of  Alcott,  the  benign  idealist,  that  when  the  Rev. 
Thomas  Wentworth  Higginson,  heading  the  rush  on 
the  U.  S.  Court  House  in  Boston,  to  rescue  a  fugitive 
slave,  looked  back  for  his  following  at  the  court-room 
door,  only  the  apostolic  philosopher  was  there  cane 


"THE  ALCOTTS"  53 

in  hand."  So  it  seems  that  his  idealism  had  some 
substantial  virtues,  even  if  he  couldn't  make  a  living. 

The  daughter  does  not  accept  the  father  as  a  proto- 
type— she  seems  to  have  but  few  of  her  father's  quali- 
ties "in  female."  She  supported  the  family  and  at 
the  same  time  enriched  the  lives  of  a  large  part  of 
young  America,  starting  off  many  little  minds  with 
wholesome  thoughts  and  many  little  hearts  with 
wholesome  emotions.  She  leaves  memory-word- 
pictures  of  healthy,  New  England  childhood  days, — 
pictures  which  are  turned  to  with  affection  by  middle- 
aged  children, — pictures,  that  bear  a  sentiment,  a 
leaven,  that  middle-aged  America  needs  nowadays 
more  than  we  care  to  admit. 

Concord  village,  itself,  reminds  one  of  that  common 
virtue  lying  at  the  height  and  root  of  all  the  Concord 
divinities.  As  one  walks  down  the  broad-arched 
street,  passing  the  white  house  of  Emerson — ascetic 
guard  of  a  former  prophetic  beauty — he  comes  pres- 
ently beneath  the  old  elms  overspreading  the  Alcott 
house.  It  seems  to  stand  as  a  kind  of  homely  but 
beautiful  witness  of  Concord's  common  virtue — it 
seems  to  bear  a  consciousness  that  its  past  is  living, 
that  the  "mosses  of  the  Old  Manse"  and  the  hickories 
of  Walden  are  not  far  away.  Here  is  the  home  of  the 
"Marches" — all  pervaded  with  the  trials  and  happi- 
ness of  the  family  and  telling,  in  a  simple  way,  the 
story  of  "the  richness  of  not  having."  Within  the 
house,  on  every  side,  lie  remembrances  of  what  ima- 
gination can  do  for  the  better  amusement  of  fortunate 
children  who  have  to  do  for  themselves — much-needed 
lessons  in  these  days  of  automatic,  ready-made,  easy 


54  "THE  ALCOTTS" 

entertainment  which  deaden  rather  than  stimulate 
the  creative  faculty.  And  there  sits  the  little  old 
spinet-piano  Sophia  Thoreau  gave  to  the  Alcott 
children,  on  which  Beth  played  the  old  Scotch  airs, 
and  played  at  the  Fifth  Symphony. 

There  is  a  commonplace  beauty  about  "Orchard 
House" — a  kind  of  spiritual  sturdiness  underlying 
its  quaint  picturesqueness — a  kind  of  common  triad 
of  the  New  England  homestead,  whose  overtones  tell 
us  that  there  must  have  been  something  aesthetic 
fibered  in  the  Puritan  severity — the  self-sacrificing 
part  of  the  ideal — a  value  that  seems  to  stir  a  deeper 
feeling,  a  stronger  sense  of  being  nearer  some  perfect 
truth  than  a  Gothic  cathedral  or  an  Etruscan  villa. 
All  around  you,  under  the  Concord  sky,  there  still 
floats  the  influence  of  that  human  faith  melody, 
transcendent  and  sentimental  enough  for  the  enthu- 
siast or  the  cynic  respectively,  reflecting  an  innate 
hope — a  common  interest  in  common  things  and 
common  men — a  tune  the  Concord  bards  are  ever 
playing,  while  they  pound  away  at  the  immensities 
with  a  Beethovenlike  sublimity,  and  with,  may  we 
say,  a  vehemence  and  perseverance — for  that  part  of 
greatness  is  not  so  difficult  to  emulate. 

We  dare  not  attempt  to  follow  the  philosophic 
raptures  of  Bronson  Alcott — unless  you  will  assume 
that  his  apotheosis  will  show  how  "practical"  his 
vision  in  this  world  would  be  in  the  next.  And  so 
we  won't  try  to  reconcile  the  music  sketch  of  the 
Alcotts  with  much  besides  the  memory  of  that  home 
under  the  elms — the  Scotch  songs  and  the  family 
hymns  that  were  sung  at  the  end  of  each  day — though 


"THE  ALCOTTS"  55 

there  may  be  an  attempt  to  catch  something  of  that 
common  sentiment  (which  we  have  tried  to  suggest 
above)— a  strength  of  hope  that  never  gives  way  to 
despair— a  conviction  in  the  power  of  the  common 
soul  which,  when  all  is  said  and  done,  may  be  as 
typical  as  any  theme  of  Concord  and  its  transcen- 
dent alists. 


THOREAU 

Thoreau  was  a  great  musician,  not  because  he 
played  the  flute  but  because  he  did  not  have  to  go 
to  Boston  to  hear  "the  Symphony."  The  rhythm 
of  his  prose,  were  there  nothing  else,  would  determine 
his  value  as  a  composer.  He  was  divinely  conscious 
of  the  enthusiasm  of  Nature,  the  emotion  of  her 
rhythms  and  the  harmony  of  her  solitude.  In  this 
consciousness  he  sang  of  the  submission  to  Nature, 
the  religion  of  contemplation,  and  the  freedom  of 
simplicity — a  philosophy  distinguishing  between  the 
complexity  of  Nature  which  teaches  freedom,  and 
the  complexity  of  materialism  which  teaches  slavery. 
In  music,  in  poetry,  in  all  art,  the  truth  as  one  sees 
it  must  be  given  in  terms  which  bear  some  proportion 
to  the  inspiration.  In  their  greatest  moments  the 
inspiration  of  both  Beethoven  and  Thoreau  express 
profound  truths  and  deep  sentiment,  but  the  intimate 
passion  of  it,  the  storm  and  stress  of  it,  affected 
Beethoven  in  such  a  way  that  he  could  not  but  be 
ever  showing  it  and  Thoreau  that  he  could  not  easily 
expose  it.  They  were  equally*  imbued  with  it,  but 
with  different  results.  A  difference  in  temperament 
had   something   to   do   with    this,    together   with    a 

56 


THOREAU  57 

difference  in  the  quality  of  expression  between  the 
two  arts.  "Who  that  has  heard  a  strain  of  music 
feared  lest  he  would  speak  extravagantly  forever," 
says  Thoreau.  Perhaps  music  is  the  art  of  speaking 
extravagantly.  Herbert  Spencer  says  that  some  men, 
as  for  instance  Mozart,  are  so  peculiarly  sensitive 
to  emotion  .  .  .  that  music  is  to  them  but  a  continua- 
tion not  only  of  the  expression  but  of  the  actual 
emotion,  though  the  theory  of  some  more  modern 
thinkers  in  the  philosophy  of  art  doesn't  always  bear 
this  out.  However,  there  is  no  doubt  that  in  its 
nature  music  is  predominantly  subjective  and  tends 
to  subjective  expression,  and  poetry  more  objective 
tending  to  objective  expression.  Hence  the  poet  when 
his  muse  calls  for  a  deeper  feeling  must  invert  this 
order,  and  he  may  be  reluctant  to  do  so  as  these  depths 
often  call  for  an  intimate  expression  which  the  physi- 
cal looks  of  the  words  may  repel.  They  tend  to  reveal 
the  nakedness  of  his  soul  rather  than  its  warmth. 
It  is  not  a  matter  of  the  relative  value  of  the  aspira- 
tion, or  a  difference  between  subconsciousness  and 
consciousness  but  a  difference  in  the  arts  themselves; 
for  example,  a  composer  may  not  shrink  from  hav- 
ing the  public  hear  his  "love  letter  in  tones,"  while  a 
poet  may  feel  sensitive  about  having  everyone  read 
his  "letter  in  words."  When  the  object  of  the  love  is 
mankind  the  sensitiveness  is  changed  only  in  degree. 
But  the  message  of  Thoreau,  though  his  fervency 
may  be  inconstant  and  his  human  appeal  not  always 
direct,  is,  both  in  thought  and  spirit,  as  universal  as 
that  of  any  man  who  ever  wrote  or  sang — as  univer- 
sal as  it  is  nontemporaneous — as  universal  as  it  is 


58  THOREAU 

free  from  the  measure  of  history,  as  "solitude  is  free 
from  the  measure  of  the  miles  of  space  that  intervene 
between  man  and  his  fellows."  In  spite  of  the  fact 
that  Henry  James  (who  knows  almost  everything) 
says  that  "Thoreau  is  more  than  provincial — that  he 
is  parochial,"  let  us  repeat  that  Henry  Thoreau,  in 
respect  to  thought,  sentiment,  imagination,  and 
soul,  in  respect  to  every  element  except  that  of  place 
of  physical  being — a  thing  that  means  so  much  to 
some — is  as  universal  as  any  personality  in  literature. 
That  he  said  upon  being  shown  a  specimen  grass  from 
Iceland  that  the  same  species  could  be  found  in  Con- 
cord is  evidence  of  his  universality,  not  of  his  paro- 
chialism. He  was  so  universal  that  he  did  not  need 
to  travel  around  the  world  to  prove  it.  "I  have 
more  of  God,  they  more  of  the  road."  "It  is  not 
worth  while  to  go  around  the  world  to  count  the  cats 
in  Zanzibar."  With  Marcus  Aurelius,  if  he  had  seen 
the  present  he  had  seen  all,  from  eternity  and  all 
time  forever. 

Thoreau's  susceptibility  to  natural  sounds  was 
probably  greater  than  that  of  many  practical  musi- 
cians. True,  this  appeal  is  mainly  through  the 
sensational  element  which  Herbert  Spencer  thinks 
the  predominant  beauty  of  music.  Thoreau  seems 
able  to  weave  from  this  source  some  perfect  tran- 
scendental symphonies.  Strains  from  the  Orient 
get  the  best  of  some  of  the  modern  French  music 
but  not  of  Thoreau.  He  seems  more  interested 
in  than  influenced  hy  Oriental  philosophy.  He  ad- 
mires its  ways  of  resignation  and  self-contemplation 
but  he  doesn't  contemplate  himself  in  the  same  way. 


THOREAU  59 

He  often  quotes  from  the  Eastern  scriptures  passages 
which  were  they  his  own  he  would  probably  omit, 
i.e.,  the  Vedas  say  "all  intelligences  awake  with 
the  morning."  This  seems  unworthy  of  "accom- 
panying the  undulations  of  celestial  music"  found 
on  this  same  page,  in  which  an  "ode  to  morning  "  is 
sung — "the  awakening  to  newly  acquired  forces  and 
aspirations  from  within  to  a  higher  life  than  we  fell 
asleep  from  .  .  .  for  all  memorable  events  transpire 
in  the  morning  time  and  in  the  morning  atmosphere." 
Thus  it  is  not  the  whole  tone  scale  of  the  Orient  but 
the  scale  of  a  Walden  morning — "music  in  single 
strains,"  as  Emerson  says,  which  inspired  many  of 
the  polyphonies  and  harmonies  that  come  to  us  through 
his  poetry.  Who  can  be  forever  melancholy  "with 
^olian  music  like  this  "  ? 

This  is  but  one  of  many  ways  in  which  Thoreau 
looked  to  Nature  for  his  greatest  inspirations.  In  her 
he  found  an  analogy  to  the  Fundamental  of  Tran- 
scendentalism. The  "innate  goodness"  of  Nature  is 
or  can  be  a  moral  influence;  Mother  Nature,  if  man 
will  but  let  her,  will  keep  him  straight — straight 
spiritually  and  so  morally  and  even  mentally.  If  he 
will  take  her  as  a  companion,  and  teacher,  and  not 
as  a  duty  or  a  creed,  she  will  give  him  greater  thrills 
and  teach  him  greater  truths  than  man  can  give  or 
teach — she  will  reveal  mysteries  that  mankind  has 
long  concealed.  It  was  the  soul  of  Nature  not  natural 
history  that  Thoreau  was  after.  A  naturalist's  mind 
is  one  predominantly  scientific,  more  interested  in 
the  relation  of  a  flower  to  other  flowers  than  its  rela- 
tion to  any  philosophy  or  anyone's  philosophy.     A 


6o  THOREAU 

transcendent  love  of  Nature  and  writing  "Rhus 
glabra "  after  sumach  doesn't  necessarily  make  a 
naturalist.  It  would  seem  that  although  thorough 
in  observation  (not  very  thorough  according  to 
Mr.  Burroughs)  and  with  a  keen  perception  of  the 
specific,  a  naturalist — inherently — was  exactly  what 
Thoreau  was  not.  He  seems  rather  to  let  Nature  put 
him  under  her  microscope  than  to  hold  her  under 
his.  He  was  too  fond  of  Nature  to  practice  vivisec- 
tion upon  her.  He  would  have  found  that  painful,  * '  for 
was  he  not  a  part  with  her?"  But  he  had  this  trait 
of  a  naturalist,  which  is  usually  foreign  to  poets,  even 
great  ones;  he  observed  acutely  even  things  that 
did  not  particularly  interest  him — a  useful  natural 
gift  rather  than  a  virtue. 

The  study  of  Nature  may  tend  to  make  one  dog- 
matic, but  the  love  of  Nature  surely  does  not.  Thoreau 
no  more  than  Emerson  could  be  said  to  have  com- 
pounded doctrines.  His  thinking  was  too  broad  for 
that.  If  Thoreau's  was  a  religion  of  Nature,  as  some 
say, — and  by  that  they  mean  that  through  Nature's 
influence  man  is  brought  to  a  deeper  contemplation, 
to  a  more  spiritual  self -scrutiny,  and  thus  closer  to 
God, — it  had  apparently  no  definite  doctrines.  Some 
of  his  theories  regarding  natural  and  social  phenom- 
ena and  his  experiments  in  the  art  of  living  are 
certainly  not  doctrinal  in  form,  and  if  they  are  in 
substance  it  didn't  disturb  Thoreau  and  it  needn't 
us.  .  .  .  "In  proportion  as  he  simplifies  his  life  the 
laws  of  the  universe  will  appear  less  complex  and 
solitude  will  not  be  solitude,  nor  poverty  poverty,  nor 
weakness  weakness.     If  you  have  built  castles  in  the 


THOREAU  6i 

air  your  work  need  not  be  lost;  that  is  where  they 
should  be,  now  put  the  foundations  under  them."  .  .  . 
"Then  we  will  love  with  the  license  of  a  higher  order 
of  beings."  Is  that  a  doctrine?  Perhaps.  At  any 
rate,  between  the  lines  of  some  such  passage  as  this 
lie  some  of  the  fountain  heads  that  water  the  spiritual 
fields  of  his  philosophy  and  the  seeds  from  which  they 
are  sown  (if  indeed  his  whole  philosophy  is  but  one 
spiritual  garden).  His  experiments,  social  and  eco- 
nomic, are  a  part  of  its  cultivation  and  for  the  harvest 
— and  its  transmutation,  he  trusts  to  moments  of  in- 
spiration— "only  what  is  thought,  said,  and  done 
at  a  certain  rare  coincidence  is  good." 

Thoreau's  experiment  at  Walden  was,  broadly 
speaking,  one  of  these  moments.  It  stands  out  in 
the  casual  and  popular  opinion  as  a  kind  of  adventure 
— harmless  and  amusing  to  some,  significant  and 
important  to  others;  but  its  significance  lies  in 
the  fact  that  in  trying  to  practice  an  ideal  he  prepared 
his  mind  so  that  it  could  better  bring  others  "into  the 
Walden-state-of-mind."  He  did  not  ask  for  a  literal 
approval,  or  in  fact  for  any  approval.  "I  would  not 
stand  between  any  man  and  his  genius."  He  would 
have  no  one  adopt  his  manner  of  life,  unless  in  doing 
so  he  adopts  his  own — besides,  by  that  time  "I  may 
have  found  a  better  one."  But  if  he  preached  hard 
he  practiced  harder  what  he  preached — harder  than 
most  men.  Throughout  Walden  a  text  that  he  is 
always  pounding  out  is  "Time."  Time  for  inside 
work  out-of-doors;  preferably  out-of-doors,  "though 
you  perhaps  may  have  some  pleasant,  thrilling,  glori- 
ous hours,  even  in  a  poor  house."    Wherever  the  place 


62  THOREAU 

— time  there  must  be.  Time  to  show  the  unneces- 
sariness  of  necessities  which  clog  up  time.  Time  to 
contemplate  the  value  of  man  to  the  universe,  of  the 
universe  to  man,  man's  excuse  for  being.  Time  from 
the  demands  of  social  conventions.  Time  from  too 
much  labor  for  some,  which  means  too  much  to  eat, 
too  much  to  wear,  too  much  material,  too  much  mate- 
rialism for  others.  Time  from  the  "hurry  and  waste 
of  life."  Time  from  the  "St.  Vitus  Dance."  But,  on 
the  other  side  of  the  ledger,  time  for  learning  that 
"there  is  no  safety  in  stupidity  alone."  Time  for 
introspection..  Time /or  reality.  Time /or  expansion. 
Time /or  practicing  the  art,  of  living  the  art  of  living. 
Thoreau  has  been  criticized  for  practicing  his  policy 
of  expansion  by  living  in  a  vacuum — but  he  peopled 
that  vacuum  with  a  race  of  beings  and  established  a 
social  order  there,  surpassing  any  of  the  precepts  in 
social  or  political  history.  "...  for  he  put  some 
things  behind  and  passed  an  invisible  boundary; 
new,  universal,  and  more  liberal  laws  were  around  and 
within  him,  the  old  laws  were  expanded  and  inter- 
preted in  a  more  liberal  sense  and  he  lived  with  the 
license  of  a  higher  order" — a  community  in  which 
"God  was  the  only  President"  and  "Thoreau  not 
Webster  was  His  Orator."  It  is  hard  to  believe  that 
Thoreau  really  refused  to  believe  that  there  was  any 
other  life  but  his  own,  though  he  probably  did  think 
that  there  was  not  any  other  life  besides  his  own  for 
him.  Living  for  society  may  not  always  be  best 
accomplished  by  living  with  society.  "Is  there  any 
virtue  in  a  man's  skin  that  you  must  touch  it?"  and 
the  "rubbing  of  elbows  may  not  bring  men's  minds 


THOREAU  63 

closer  together  ";  or  if  he  were  talking  through  a ' '  worst 
seller  ' '  (magazine)  that ' '  had  to  put  it  over ' '  he  might 
say,  "forty  thousand  souls  at  a  ball  game  does  not, 
necessarily,  make  baseball  the  highest  expression  of 
spiritual  emotion."  Thoreau,  however,  is  no  cynic, 
either  in  character  or  thought,  though  in  a  side  glance 
at  himself,  he  may  have  held  out  to  be  one;  a  "cynic 
in  independence,"  possibly  because  of  his  rule  laid 
down  that  "self-culture  admits  of  no  compromise." 
It  is  conceivable  that  though  some  of  his  philo- 
sophy and  a  good  deal  of  his  personality,  in  some  of 
its  manifestations,  have  outward  colors  that  do  not 
seem  to  harmonize,  the  true  and  intimate  relations  they 
bear  each  other  are  not  affected.  This  peculiarity,  fre- 
quently seen  in  his  attitude  towards  social-economic 
problems,  is  perhaps  more  emphasized  in  some  of  his 
personal  outbursts.  "I  love  my  friends  very  much, 
but  I  find  that  it  is  of  no  use  to  go  to  see  them.  I 
hate  them  commonly  when  I  am  near."  It  is  easier 
to  see  what  he  means  than  it  is  to  forgive  him  for  say- 
ing it.  The  cause  of  this  apparent  lack  of  harmon}^ 
between  philosophy  and  personality,  as  far  as  they 
can  be  separated,  may  have  been  due  to  his  refusal 
"to  keep  the  very  delicate  balance"  which  Mr. 
Van  Doren  in  his  Critical  Study  of  Thoreau  says  "it 
is  necessary  for  a  great  and  good  man  to  keep  between 
his  public  and  private  lives,  between  his  own  person- 
ality and  the  whole  outside  universe  of  personalities." 
Somehow  one  feels  that  if  he  had  kept  this  balance 
he  would  have  lost  ' '  hitting  power."  Again,  it  seems 
that  something  of  the  above  depends  upon  the  degree 
of  greatness  or  goodness.     A  very  great  and  espe- 


64  THOREAU 

cially  a  very  good  man  has  no  separate  private  and 
public  life.  His  own  personality  though  not  identical 
with  outside  personalities  is  so  clear  or  can  be  so 
clear  to  them  that  it  appears  identical,  and  as  the 
world  progresses  towards  its  inevitable  perfection 
this  appearance  becomes  more  and  more  a  reality. 
For  the  same  reason  that  all  great  men  now  agree, 
in  principle  but  not  in  detail,  in  so  far  as  words  are 
able  to  communicate  agreement,  on  the  great  funda- 
mental truths.  Someone  says:  "Be  specific — what 
great  fundamentals?"  Freedom  over  slavery;  the 
natural  over  the  artificial;  beauty  over  ugliness; 
the  spiritual  over  the  material;  the  goodness  of  man; 
the  Godness  of  man;  God;  with  all  other  kindred 
truths  that  have  been  growing  in  expression  through 
the  ages,  eras,  and  civilizations,  innate  things  which 
once  seemed  foreign  to  the  soul  of  humankind.  All 
great  men — there  are  millions  of  them  now — agree 
on  these.  Around  the  relative  and  the  absolute 
value  of  an  attribute,  or  quality,  or  whatever  it  may 
be  called,  is  where  the  fight  is.  The  relative  not  from 
the  absolute — but  of  it,  always  of  it.  Geniuses — and 
there  are  millions  of  them — differ  as  to  what  is  beautiful 
and  what  is  ugly,  as  to  what  is  right  and  what  is  wrong 
— there  are  many  interpretations  of  God — but  they 
all  agree  that  beauty  is  better  than  ugliness  and  right 
is  better  than  wrong,  and  that  there  is  a  God — all 
are  one  when  they  reach  the  essence.  Every  analysis 
of  a  criticism  or  quality  of  Thoreau  invariably  leads 
back  and  stands  us  against  the  great  problems  of 
life  and  eternity.  It  is  a  fair  indication  of  the  great- 
ness of  his  problems  and  ideals. 


THOREAU  65 

The  unsympathetic  treatment  accorded  Thoreau 
on  account  of  the  false  colors  that  his  personality 
apparently  gave  to  some  of  his  important  ideas  and 
virtues,  might  be  lessened  if  it  were  more  constantly 
remembered  that  a  command  of  his  to-day  is  but  a 
mood  of  yesterday  and  a  contradiction  to-morrow. 
He  is  too  volatile  to  paint,  much  less  to  catalogue. 
If  Thoreau  did  not  over-say  he  said  nothing.  He 
says  so  himself.  "I  desire  to  speak  somewhere 
without  bounds  like  a  man  in  a  waking  moment  to 
men  in  their  waking  moments  .  .  .  for  I  am  con- 
vinced that  I  cannot  exaggerate  enough  even  to  lay 
a  foundation  for  a  true  expression."  For  all  that,  it 
is  not  safe  to  think  that  he  should  never  be  taken 
literally,  as  for  instance  in  the  sentence  above.  His 
extravagance  at  times  involves  him  but  Thoreau 
never  rejoices  in  it  as  Meredith  seems  to.  He  struggles 
against  it  and  seems  as  much  ashamed  of  being  in- 
volved as  the  latter  seems  of  not  being.  He  seldom 
gets  into  the  situation  of  Meredith — timidly  wander- 
ing around  with  no  clothes  after  stepping  out  of  one 
of  his  involvedensities.  This  habit  may  be  a  part 
of  the  novelists'  license,  for  perhaps  their  inspiration 
is  less  original  and  less  natural  than  that  of  the  poets, 
as  traits  of  human  weakness  are  unnatural  to  or  "  not 
an  innate  part  with  human  nature."  Perhaps  if  they 
(novelists)  had  broader  sources  for  their  inspiration 
they  would  hardly  need  licenses  and  perhaps  they 
would  hardly  become  novelists.  For  the  same  reason 
that  Shakespeare  might  have  been  greater  if  he  hadn't 
written  plays.  Some  say  that  a  true  composer  will 
never  write  an  opera  because  a  truly  brave  man  will 


66  THOREAU 

not  take  a  drink  to  keep  up  his  courage;  which  is 
not  the  same  thing  as  saying  that  Shakespeare  is  not 
the  greatest  figure  in  all  literature;  in  fact,  it  is  an 
attempt  to  say  that  many  novels,  most  operas,  all 
Shakespeares,  and  all  brave  men  and  women  (rum  or 
no  rum)  are  among  the  noblest  blessings  with  which 
God  has  endowed  mankind — because,  not  being  per- 
fect, they  are  perfect  examples  pointing  to  that  per- 
fection which  nothing  yet  has  attained. 

Thoreau's  mysticism  at  times  throws  him  into 
elusive  moods — but  an  elusiveness  held  by  a  thread 
to  something  concrete  and  specific,  for  he  had  too 
much  integrity  of  mind  for  any  other  kind.  In  these 
moments  it  is  easier  to  follow  his  thought  than  to 
follow  him.  Indeed,  if  he  were  always  easy  to  follow, 
after  one  had  caught  up  with  him,  one  might  find 
that  it  was  not  Thoreau. 

It  is,  however,  with  no  mystic  rod  that  he  strikes 
at  institutional  life.  Here  again  is  felt  the  influence 
of  the  great  transcendental  doctrine  of  "innate 
goodness"  in  human  nature — a  reflection  of  the  like 
in  nature;  a  philosophic  part  which,  by  the  way, 
was  a  more  direct  inheritance  in  Thoreau  than  in  his 
brother  transcendentalists.  For  besides  what  he  re- 
ceived from  a  native  Unitarianism  a  good  part  must 
have  descended  to  him  through  his  Huguenot  blood 
from  the  "eighteenth-century  French  philosophy." 
We  trace  a  reason  here  for  his  lack  of  interest  in  *  *  the 
church."  For  if  revealed  religion  is  the  path  between 
God  and  man's  spiritual  part — a  kind  of  formal  cause- 
way— Thoreau's  highly  developed  spiritual  life  felt,  ap- 
parently unconsciously,  less  need  of  it  than  most  men. 


THOREAU  67 

But  he  might  have  been  more  charitable  towards 
those  who  do  need  it  (and  most  of  us  do)  if  he  had 
been  more  conscious  of  his  freedom.  Those  who  look 
to-day  for  the  cause  of  a  seeming  deterioration  in 
the  influence  of  the  church  may  find  it  in  a  wider 
development  of  this  feeling  of  Thoreau's;  that  the 
need  is  less  because  there  is  more  of  the  spirit  of 
Christianity  in  the  world  to-day.  Another  cause  for 
his  attitude  towards  the  church  as  an  institution  is 
one  always  too  common  among  "the  narrow  minds" 
to  have  influenced  Thoreau.  He  could  have  been 
more  generous.  He  took  the  arc  for  the  circle, 
the  exception  for  the  rule,  the  solitary  bad  example 
for  the  many  good  ones.  His  persistent  emphasis  on 
the  value  of  "example"  may  excuse  this  lower  view- 
point. "The  silent  influence  of  the  example  of  one 
sincere  life  .  .  .  has  benefited  society  more  than  all 
the  projects  devised  for  its  salvation."  He  has  little 
patience  for  the  unpracticing  preacher.  "In  some 
countries  a  hunting  parson  is  no  uncommon  sight. 
Such  a  one  might  make  a  good  shepherd  dog  but  is 
far  from  being  a  good  shepherd."  It  would  have 
been  interesting  to  have  seen  him  handle  the  specu- 
lating parson,  who  takes  a  good  salary — more  per 
annum  than  all  the  disciples  had  to  sustain  their  bodies 
during  their  whole  lives — from  a  metropolitan  reli- 
gious corporation  for  "speculating"  on  Sunday 
about  the  beauty  of  poverty,  who  preaches:  "Take 
no  thought  (for  your  life)  what  ye  shall  eat  or  what 
ye  shall  drink  nor  yet  what  ye  shall  put  on  .  .  . 
lay  not  up  for  yourself  treasure  upon  earth  .  .  . 
take  up  thy  cross  and  follow  me";  who  on  Monday 


68  THOREAU 

becomes  a  "speculating"  disciple  of  another  god, 
and  by  questionable  investments,  successful  enough 
to  get  into  the  "press,"  seeks  to  lay  up  a  treasure  of  a 
million  dollars  for  his  old  age,  as  if  a  million  dollars 
could  keep  such  a  man  out  of  the  poor-house. 
Thoreau  might  observe  that  this  one  good  example 
of  Christian  degeneracy  undoes  all  the  acts  of  regen- 
eracy  of  a  thousand  humble  five-hundred-dollar 
country  parsons;  that  it  out-influences  the  "uncon- 
scious influence"  of  a  dozen  Dr.  Bushnells  if  there 
be  that  many;  that  the  repentance  of  this  man  who 
did  not  "fall  from  grace"  because  he  never  fell  into 
it — that  this  unnecessary  repentance  might  save  this 
man's  own  soul  but  not  necessarily  the  souls  of  the 
million  head-line  readers;  that  repentance  would 
put  this  preacher  right  with  the  powers  that  be  in 
this  world — and  the  next.  Thoreau  might  pass  a 
remark  upon  this  man's  intimacy  with  God  "as  if  he 
had  a  monopoly  of  the  subject" — an  intimacy  that 
perhaps  kept  him  from  asking  God  exactly  what  his 
Son  meant  by  the  "camel,"  the  "needle" — to  say 
nothing  of  the  "rich  man."  Thoreau  might  have 
wondered  how  this  man  nailed  down  the  last  plank 
in  his  bridge  to  salvation,  by  rising  to  sublime  heights 
of  patriotism,  in  his  war  against  materialism;  but 
would  even  Thoreau  be  so  unfeeling  as  to  suggest  to 
this  exhort er  that  his  salvation  might  be  clinched 
"if  he  would  sacrifice  his  income"  (not  himself) 
and  come-in  to  a  real  Salvation  Army,  or  that  the 
final  triumph,  the  supreme  happiness  in  casting  aside 
this  mere  ^10,000  or  $20,000  every  year  must  be 
denied  him — for  was  he  not  captain  of  the  ship — must 


THOREAU  69 

he  not  stick  to  his  passengers  (in  the  first  cabin — the 
very  first  cabin) — not  that  the  ship  was  sinking  but 
that  he  was  ...  we  will  go  no  further.  Even 
Thoreau  would  not  demand  sacrifice  for  sacrifice 
sake — no,  not  even  from  Nature. 

Property  from  the  standpoint  of  its  influence  in 
checking  natural  self-expansion  and  from  the  stand- 
point of  personal  and  inherent  right  is  another  in- 
stitution that  comes  in  for  straight  and  cross-arm  jabs, 
now  to  the  stomach,  now  to  the  head,  but  seldom 
sparring  for  breath.  For  does  he  not  say  that  "wher- 
ever a  man  goes,  men  will  pursue  him  with  their  dirty 
institutions ' '  ?  The  influence  of  property,  as  he  saw  it, 
on  morality  or  immorality  and  how  through  this  it 
may  or  should  influence  "government"  is  seen  by  the 
following :  "  I  am  convinced  that  if  all  men  were  to 
live  as  simply  as  I  did,  then  thieving  and  robbery 
would  be  unknown.  These  take  place  only  in  commu- 
nities where  some  have  got  more  than  is  sufficient 
while  others  have  not  enough — 

Nee  bella  fuerunt, 
Fagimus  astabat  dum 
Scyphus  ante  dapes — 

You  who  govern  public  affairs,  what  need  have 
you  to  employ  punishments?  Have  virtue  and  the 
people  will  be  virtuous."  If  Thoreau  had  made  the 
first  sentence  read:  "If  all  men  were  like  me  and 
were  to  live  as  simply,"  etc.,  everyone  would  agree 
with  him.  We  ma}^  wonder  here  how  he  would  ac- 
count for  some  of  the  degenerate  types  we  are  told 


70  THOREAU 

about  in  some  of  our  backwoods  and  mountain 
regions.  Possibly  by  assuming  that  they  are  an 
instance  of  perversion  of  the  species.  That  the 
little  civilizing  their  forbears  experienced  rendered 
these  people  more  susceptible  to  the  physical  than 
to  the  spiritual  influence  of  nature;  in  other  words, 
if  they  had  been  purer  naturists,  as  the  Aztecs  for 
example,  they  would  have  been  purer  men.  Instead 
of  turning  to  any  theory  of  ours  or  of  Thoreau  for 
the  true  explanation  of  this  condition — which  is  a 
kind  of  pseudo-naturalism — for  its  true  diagnosis 
and  permanent  cure,  are  we  not  far  more  certain  to 
find  it  in  the  radiant  look  of  humilit3%  love,  and  hope 
in  the  strong  faces  of  those  inspired  souls  who  are 
devoting  their  lives  with  no  little  sacrifice  to  these 
outcasts  of  civilization  and  nature.  In  truth,  may 
not  mankind  find  the  solution  of  its  eternal  problem 
— find  it  after  and  beyond  the  last,  most  perfect 
system  of  wealth  distribution  which  science  can  ever 
devise — after  and  beyond  the  last  sublime  echo  of 
the  greatest  socialistic  symphonies — after  and  beyond 
every  transcendent  thought  and  expression  in  the 
simple  example  of  these  Christ-inspired  souls — be  they 
Pagan,  Gentile,  Jew,  or  angel. 

However,  underlying  the  practical  or  impractical 
suggestions  implied  in  the  quotation  above,  which 
is  from  the  last  paragraph  of  Thoreau's  Village,  is  the 
same  transcendental  theme  of  "innate  goodness." 
For  this  reason  there  must  be  no  limitation  except 
that  which  will  free  mankind  from  limitation,  and 
from  a  perversion  of  this  "innate"  possession.  And 
"property"  may  be  one  of  the  causes  of  this  perver- 


THOREAU  71 

sion — property  in  the  two  relations  cited  above.  It 
is  conceivable  that  Thoreau,  to  the  consternation  of 
the  richest  members  of  the  Bolsheviki  and  Bour- 
geois, would  propose  a  policy  of  liberation,  a  policy 
of  a  limited  personal  property  right,  on  the  ground 
that  congestion  of  personal  property  tends  to  limit 
the  progress  of  the  soul  (as  well  as  the  progress  of  the 
stomach) — letting  the  economic  noise  thereupon  take 
care  of  itself — for  dissonances  are  becoming  beautiful 
— and  do  not  the  same  waters  that  roar  in  a  storm 
take  care  of  the  eventual  calm?  That  this  limit  of 
property  be  determined  not  by  the  voice  of  the 
majority  but  by  the  brain  of  the  majority  under  a 
government  limited  to  no  national  boundaries.  ''The 
government  of  the  world  I  live  in  is  not  framed  in 
after-dinner  conversation" — around  a  table  in  a  capi- 
tal city,  for  there  is  no  capital — a  government  of 
principles  not  parties;  of  a  few  fundamental  truths 
and  not  of  many  political  expediencies.  A  govern- 
ment conducted  by  virtuous  leaders,  for  it  will  be  led 
by  all,  for  all  are  virtuous,  as  then  their  "innate  vir- 
tue" will  no  more  be  perverted  by  unnatural  institu- 
tions. This  will  not  be  a  millennium  but  a  practical 
and  possible  application  of  uncommon  common  sense. 
For  is  it  not  sense,  common  or  otherwise,  for  Nature 
to  want  to  hand  back  the  earth  to  those  to  whom  it 
belongs — that  is,  to  those  who  have  to  live  on  it?  Is 
it  not  sense,  that  the  average  brains  like  the  average 
stomachs  will  act  rightly  if  they  have  an  equal  amount 
of  the  right  kind  of  food  to  act  upon  and  universal 
education  is  on  the  way  with  the  right  kind  of  food? 
Is  it  not  sense  then  that  all  grown  men  and  women 


72  THOREAU 

(for  all  are  necessary  to  work  out  the  divine  "law  of 
averages")  shall  have  a  direct  not  an  indirect  say 
about  the  things  that  go  on  in  this  world  ? 

Some  of  these  attitudes,  ungenerous  or  radical, 
generous  or  conservative  (as  you  will) ,  towards  institu- 
tions dear  to  many,  have  no  doubt  given  impressions 
unfavorable  to  Thoreau's  thought  and  personality. 
One  hears  him  called,  by  some  who  ought  to  know 
what  they  say  and  some  who  ought  not,  a  crabbed, 
cold-hearted,  sour-faced  Yankee — a  kind  of  a  vision- 
ary sore-head — a  cross-grained,  egotistic  recluse, — 
even  non-hearted.  But  it  is  easier  to  make  a  state- 
ment than  prove  a  reputation.  Thoreau  may  be 
some  of  these  things  to  those  who  make  no  distinc- 
tion between  these  qualities  and  the  manner  which 
often  comes  as  a  kind  of  by-product  of  an  intense 
devotion  to  a  principle  or  ideal.  He  was  rude  and 
unfriendly  at  times  but  shyness  probably  had  some- 
thing to  do  with  that.  In  spite  of  a  certain  self- 
possession  he  was  diffident  in  most  company,  but, 
though  he  may  have  been  subject  to  those  spells 
when  words  do  not  rise  and  the  mind  seems  wrapped 
in  a  kind  of  dull  cloth  which  everyone  dumbly  stares 
at,  instead  of  looking  through — he  would  easily  get 
off  a  rejoinder  upon  occasion.  When  a  party  of 
visitors  came  to  Walden  and  some  one  asked  Thoreau 
if  he  found  it  lonely  there,  he  replied:  "Only  by 
your  help."  A  remark  characteristic,  true,  rude,  if 
not  witty.  The  writer  remembers  hearing  a  school- 
teacher in  English  literature  dismiss  Thoreau  (and 
a  half  hour  lesson,  in  which  time  all  of  Walden, — 
its   surface — was   sailed   over)    by    saying  that  this 


THOREAU  73 

author  (he  called  everyone  "author"  from  Solomon 
down  to  Dr.  Parkhurst)  "was  a  kind  of  a  crank 
who  styled  himself  a  hermit-naturalist  and  who  idled 
about  the  woods  because  he  didn't  want  to  work." 
Some  such  stuff  is  a  common  conception,  though 
not  as  common  as  it  used  to  be.  If  this  teacher 
had  had  more  brains,  it  would  have  been  a  lie. 
The  word  idled  is  the  hopeless  part  of  this  criti- 
cism, or  rather  of  this  uncritical  remark.  To  ask 
this  kind  of  a  man,  who  plays  all  the  "choice  gems 
from  celebrated  composers  "  literally,  always  literally, 
and  always  with  the  loud  pedal,  who  plays  all  hymns, 
wrong  notes,  right  notes,  games,  people,  and  jokes  lit- 
erally, and  with  the  loud  pedal,  who  will  die  literally 
and  with  the  loud  pedal — to  ask  this  man  to  smile  even 
faintly  at  Thoreau's  humor  is  like  casting  a  pearl  be- 
fore a  coal  baron.  Emerson  implies  that  there  is  one 
thing  a  genius  must  have  to  be  a  genius  and  that  is 
"mother  wit."  .  .  .  " Doctor  Johnson,  Milton,  Chau- 
cer, and  Burns  had  it.  Aunt  Mary  Moody  Emerson 
has  it  and  can  write  scrap  letters.  Who  has  it  need 
never  write  anything  but  scraps.  Henry  Thoreau  has 
it."  His  humor  though  a  part  of  this  wit  is  not  always 
as  spontaneous,  for  it  is  sometimes  pun  shape  (so  is 
Charles  Lamb's) — but  it  is  nevertheless  a  kind  that 
can  serenely  transport  us  and  which  we  can  enjoy  with- 
out disturbing  our  neighbors.  If  there  are  those  who 
think  him  cold-hearted  and  with  but  little  human 
sympathy,  let  them  read  his  letters  to  Emerson's 
little  daughter,  or  hear  Dr.  Emerson  tell  about  the 
Thoreau  home  life  and  the  stories  of  his  boyhood — 
the  ministrations  to   a  runaway  slave;   or  let  them 


74  THOREAU 

ask  old  Sam  Staples,  the  Concord  sheriff  about  him. 
That  he  "was  fond  of  a  few  intimate  friends,  but 
cared  not  one  fig  for  people  in  the  mass,"  is  a  state- 
ment made  in  a  school  history  and  which  is  super- 
ficially true.  He  cared  too  much  for  the  masses — 
too  much  to  let  his  personality  be  "massed";  too 
much  to  be  unable  to  realize  the  futility  of  wear- 
ing his  heart  on  his  sleeve  but  not  of  wearing  his  path 
to  the  shore  of  "Walden"  for  future  masses  to  walk 
over  and  perchance  find  the  way  to  themselves.  Some 
near-satirists  are  fond  of  telling  us  that  Thoreau  came 
so  close  to  Nature  that  she  killed  him  before  he 
had  discovered  her  whole  secret.  They  remind  us 
that  he  died  with  consumption  but  forget  that  he 
lived  with  consumption.  And  without  using  much 
charity,  this  can  be  made  to  excuse  many  of  his 
irascible  and  uncongenial  moods.  You  to  whom  that 
gaunt  face  seems  forbidding — look  into  the  eyes !  If 
he  seems  "dry  and  priggish"  to  you,  Mr.  Stevenson, 
"with  little  of  that  large  unconscious  geniality  of  the 
world's  heroes,"  follow  him  some  spring  morning  to 
Baker  Farm,  as  he  "rambles  through  pine  groves  .  .  . 
like  temples,  or  like  fleets  at  sea,  full-rigged,  with 
wavy  boughs  and  rippling  with  light  so  soft  and  green 
and  shady  that  the  Druids  would  have  forsaken  their 
oaks  to  worship  in  them."  Follow  him  to  "the  cedar 
wood  beyond  Flint's  Pond,  where  the  trees  covered 
with  hoary  blue  berries,  spiring  higher  and  higher,  are 
fit  to  stand  before  Valhalla."  Follow  him,  but  not  too 
closely,  for  you  may  see  little,  if  you  do — "as  he  walks 
in  so  pure  and  bright  a  light  gilding  its  withered  grass 
and  leaves  so  softly  and  serenely  bright  that  he  thinks 


THOREAU  75 

he  has  never  bathed  in  such  a  golden  flood."  Follow 
him  as  "he  saunters  towards  the  holy  land  till  one  day 
the  sun  shall  shine  more  brightly  than  ever  it  has 
done,  perchance  shine  into  your  minds  and  hearts 
and  light  up  your  whole  lives  with  a  great  awakening, 
light  as  warm  and  serene  and  golden  as  on  a  bankside 
in  autumn."  Follow  him  through  the  golden  flood 
to  the  shore  of  that  "holy  land,"  where  he  lies  dying 
as  men  say — dying  as  bravely  as  he  lived.  You  may 
be  near  when  his  stern  old  aunt  in  the  duty  of  her 
Puritan  conscience  asks  him:  "Have  you  made  your 
peace  with  God"?  and  you  may  see  his  kindly  smile 
as  he  replies,  "I  did  not  know  that  we  had  ever 
quarreled."  Moments  like  these  reflect  more  nobility 
and  equanimity  perhaps  than  geniality — qualities, 
however,  more  serviceable  to  world's  heroes. 

The  personal  trait  that  one  who  has  affection  for 
Thoreau  may  find  worst  is  a  combative  streak,  in 
which  he  too  often  takes  refuge.  "An  obstinate 
elusiveness,"  almost  a  "contrary  cussedness,"  as  if 
he  would  say,  which  he  didn't:  "If  a  truth  about 
something  is  not  as  I  think  it  ought  to  be,  I'll  make 
it  what  I  think,  and  it  will  be  the  truth — but  if  you 
agree  with  me,  then  I  begin  to  think  it  may  not  be 
the  truth."  The  causes  of  these  unpleasant  colors 
(rather  than  characteristics)  are  too  easily  attributed 
to  a  lack  of  human  sympathy  or  to  the  assumption 
that  they  are  at  least  symbols  of  that  lack  instead  of 
to  a  supersensitiveness,  magnified  at  times  by  ill 
health  and  at  times  by  a  subconsciousness  of  the 
futility  of  actually  living  out  his  ideals  in  this  life. 
It  has  been  said  that  his  brave  hopes  were  unrealized 


76  THOREATJ 

anywhere  in  his  career — but  it  is  certain  that  they 
started  to  be  realized  on  or  about  May  6,  1862,  and 
we  doubt  if  1920  will  end  their  fulfillment  or  his  career. 
But  there  were  many  in  Concord  who  knew  that  within 
their  village  there  was  a  tree  of  wondrous  growth, 
the  shadow  of  which — alas,  too  frequently — was  the 
only  part  they  were  allowed  to  touch.  Emerson 
was  one  of  these.  He  was  not  only  deeply  conscious 
of  Thoreau's  rare  gifts  but  in  the  Woodland  Notes 
pays  a  tribute  to  a  side  of  his  friend  that  many  others 
missed.  Emerson  knew  that  Thoreau's  sensibilities 
too  often  veiled  his  nobilities,  that  a  self-cultivated 
stoicism  ever  fortified  with  sarcasm,  none  the  less  se- 
curely because  it  seemed  voluntary,  covered  a  warmth 
of  feeling.  "His  great  heart,  him  a  hermit  made." 
A  breadth  of  heart  not  easily  measured,  found  only 
in  the  highest  type  of  sentimentalists,  the  type  which 
does  not  perpetually  discriminate  in  favor  of  mankind. 
Emerson  has  much  of  this  sentiment  and  touches  it 
when  he  sings  of  Nature  as  "the  incarnation  of  a 
thought,"  when  he  generously  visualizes  Thoreau, 
"standing  at  the  Walden  shore  invoking  the  vision 
of  a  thought  as  it  drifts  heavenward  into  an  incarna- 
tion of  Nature."  There  is  a  Godlike  patience  in 
Nature, — in  her  mists,  her  trees,  her  mountains — 
as  if  she  had  a  more  abiding  faith  and  a  clearer 
vision  than  man  of  the  resurrection  and  immor- 
tality! 

There  comes  to  memory  an  old  yellow-papered 
composition  of  school-boy  days  whose  peroration 
closed  with  "Poor  Thoreau;  he  communed  with 
nature  for  forty  odd  years,  and  then  died."     "The 


THOREAU  77 

forty  odd  years," — we'll  still  grant  that  part,  but  he 
is  over  a  hundred  now,  and  maybe,  Mr.  Lowell,  he 
is  more  lovable,  kindlier,  and  more  radiant  with 
human  sympathy  to-day,  than,  perchance,  you  were 
fifty  years  ago.  It  may  be  that  he  is  a  far  stronger, 
a  far  greater,  an  incalculably  greater  force  in  the  moral 
and  spiritual  fibre  of  his  fellow-countrymen  through- 
out the  world  to-day  than  you  dreamed  of  fifty  years 
ago.  You,  James  Russell  Lowells!  You,  Robert 
Louis  Stevensons!  You,  Mark  Van  Dorens!  with 
your  literary  perception,  your  power  of  illumination, 
your  brilliancy  of  expression,  yea,  and  with  your  love 
of  sincerity,  you  know  your  Thoreau,  but  not  my 
Thoreau — that  reassuring  and  true  friend,  who  stood 
by  me  one  "low"  day,  when  the  sun  had  gone  down, 
long,  long  before  sunset.  You  may  know  something 
of  the  affection  that  heart  yearned  for  but  knew  it 
a  duty  not  to  grasp;  you  may  know  something  of 
the  great  human  passions  which  stirred  that  soul — 
too  deep  for  animate  expression — you  may  know  all 
of  this,  all  there  is  to  know  about  Thoreau,  but  you 
know  him  not,  unless  you  love  him! 

And  if  there  shall  be  a  program  for  our  music  let 
it  follow  his  thought  on  an  autumn  day  of  Indian 
summer  at  Walden — a  shadow  of  a  thought  at  first, 
colored  by  the  mist  and  haze  over  the  pond: 

Low  anchored  cloud, 
Fountain  head  and 
Source  of  rivers.  .  .  . 
Dew  cloth,  dream  drapery- 
Drifting  meadow  of  the  air.  .  .   . 


78  THOREAU 

but  this  is  momentary;  the  beauty  of  the  day  moves 
him  to  a  certain  restlessness — to  aspirations  more  spe- 
cific— an  eagerness  for  outward  action,  but  through 
it  all  he  is  conscious  that  it  is  not  in  keeping  with  the 
mood  for  this  "Day."  As  the  mists  rise,  there  comes 
a  clearer  thought  more  traditional  than  the  first,  a 
meditation  more  calm.  As  he  stands  on  the  side 
of  the  pleasant  hill  of  pines  and  hickories  in  front  of 
his  cabin,  he  is  still  disturbed  by  a  restlessness  and 
goes  down  the  white-pebbled  and  sandy  eastern  shore, 
but  it  seems  not  to  lead  him  where  the  thought  sug- 
gests— he  climbs  the  path  along  the  "bolder  northern" 
and  "western  shore,  with  deep  bays  indented,"  and 
now  along  the  railroad  track,  "where  the  ^olian 
harp  plays."  But  his  eagerness  throws  him  into  the 
lithe,  springy  stride  of  the  specie  hunter — the  na- 
turalist— he  is  still  aware  of  a  restlessness ;  with  these 
faster  steps  his  rhythm  is  of  shorter  span — it  is  still 
not  the  tempo  of  Nature,  it  does  not  bear  the  mood 
that  the  genius  of  the  day  calls  for,  it  is  too  specific, 
its  nature  is  too  external,  the  introspection  too  buoy- 
ant, and  he  knows  now  that  he  must  let  Nature  flow 
through  him  and  slowly;  he  releases  his  more  per- 
sonal desires  to  her  broader  rhythm,  conscious  that 
this  blends  more  and  more  with  the  harmony  of  her 
solitude;  it  tells  him  that  his  search  for  freedom  on 
that  day,  at  least,  lies  in  his  submission  to  her,  for 
Nature  is  as  relentless  as  she  is  benignant.  He 
remains  in  this  mood  and  while  outwardly  still,  he 
seems  to  move  with  the  slow,  almost  monotonous 
swaying  beat  of  this  autumnal  day.  He  is  more 
contented  with  a  "homely  burden"  and  is  more  as- 


THOREAU  79 

sured  of  "the  broad  margin  to  his  life;  he  sits  in 
his  sunny  doorway  .  .  .  rapt  in  revery  .  .  .  amidst 
goldenrod,  sandcherry,  and  sumach  ...  in  undis- 
turbed solitude."  At  times  the  more  definite  per- 
sonal strivings  for  the  ideal  freedom,  the  former  more 
active  speculations  come  over  him,  as  if  he  would 
trace  a  certain  intensity  even  in  his  submission.  "He 
grew  in  those  seasons  like  corn  in  the  night  and  they 
were  better  than  any  works  of  the  hands.  They 
were  not  time  subtracted  from  his  life  but  so  much 
over  and  above  the  usual  allowance."  "He  realized 
what  the  Orientals  meant  by  contemplation  and  for- 
saking of  works."  "The  day  advanced  as  if  to  light 
some  work  of  his — it  was  morning  and  lo !  now  it  is 
evening  and  nothing  memorable  is  accomplished  .  .  ." 
"  The  evening  train  has  gone  by,"  and  "all  the  restless 
world  with  it.  The  fishes  in  the  pond  no  longer  feel 
its  rumbling  and  he  is  more  alone  than  ever.  ..." 
His  meditations  are  interrupted  only  by  the  faint 
sound  of  the  Concord  bell — 'tis  prayer-meeting  night 
in  the  village — "a  melody  as  it  were,  imported  into 
the  wilderness.  ..."  "  At  a  distance  over  the  woods 
the  sound  acquires  a  certain  vibratory  hum  as  if  the 
pine  needles  in  the  horizon  were  the  strings  of  a  harp 
which  it  swept.  ...  A  vibration  of  the  universal 
lyre.  .  .  .  Just  as  the  intervening  atmosphere  makes 
a  distant  ridge  of  earth  interesting  to  the  eyes  by  the 
azure  tint  it  imparts."  .  .  .  Part  of  the  echo  may 
be  "the  voice  of  the  wood;  the  same  trivial  words 
and  notes  sung  by  the  wood  nymph."  It  is  darker, 
the  poet's  flute  is  heard  out  over  the  pond  and  Walden 
hears   the  swan  song   of   that  "Day"    and   faintly 


8o  THOREAU 

echoes.  ...  Is  it  a  transcendental  tune  of  Concord? 
T'is  an  evening  when  the  "whole  body  is  one  sense," 
.  .  .  and  before  ending  his  day  he  looks  out  over  the 
clear,  crystalline  water  of  the  pond  and  catches  a 
glimpse  of  the  shadow- thought  he  saw  in  the  morn- 
ing's mist  and  haze — he  knows  that  by  his  final  sub- 
mission, he  possesses  the  "Freedom  of  the  Night." 
He  goes  up  the  "pleasant  hillside  of  pines,  hickories," 
and  moonlight  to  his  cabin,  "with  a  strange  liberty 
in  Nature,  a  part  of  herself." 


VI 
EPILOGUE 


The  futility  of  attempting  to  trace  the  source  or 
primal  impulse  of  an  art-inspiration  may  be  admitted 
without  granting  that  human  qualities  or  attributes 
which  go  with  personality  cannot  be  suggested,  and 
that  artistic  intuitions  which  parallel  them  cannot  be 
reflected  in  music.  Actually  accomplishing  the  latter 
is  a  problem,  more  or  less  arbitrary  to  an  open  mind, 
more  or  less  impossible  to  a  prejudiced  mind. 

That  which  the  composer  intends  to  represent  as 
"high  vitality"  sounds  like  something  quite  different 
to  different  listeners.  That  which  I  like  to  think 
suggests  Thoreau's  submission  to  nature  may,  to 
another,  seem  something  like  Hawthorne's  "concep- 
tion of  the  relentlessness  of  an  evil  conscience" — and 
to  the  rest  of  our  friends,  but  a  series  of  unpleasant 
sounds.  How  far  can  the  composer  be  held  account- 
able? Beyond  a  certain  point  the  responsibility  is 
more  or  less  undeterminable.  The  outside  character- 
istics— that  is,  the  points  furthest  away  from  the 
mergings — are  obvious  to  mostly  anyone.  A  child 
knows  a  "strain  of  joy,"  from  one  of  sorrow.  Those 
a  little  older  know  the  dignified  from  the  frivolous — 
6  8i 


82  EPILOGUE 

the  Spring  Song  from  the  season  in  which  the  "mel- 
ancholy days  have  come"  (though  is  there  not  a 
glorious  hope  in  autumn!).  But  where  is  the  definite 
expression  of  late-spring  against  early-summer,  of 
happiness  against  optimism?  A  painter  paints  a 
sunset — can  he  paint  the  setting  sun? 

In  some  century  to  come,  when  the  school  children 
will  whistle  popular  tunes  in  quarter-tones — when 
the  diatonic  scale  will  be  as  obsolete  as  the  pentatonic 
is  now — perhaps  then  these  borderland  experiences 
may  be  both  easily  expressed  and  readily  recognized. 
But  maybe  music  was  not  intended  to  satisfy  the 
curious  definiteness  of  man.  Maybe  it  is  better  to 
hope  that  music  may  always  be  a  transcendental 
language  in  the  most  extravagant  sense.  Possibly 
the  power  of  literally  distinguishing  these  "shades 
of  abstraction" — these  attributes  paralleled  by  "artis- 
tic intuitions"  (call  them  what  you  will) — is  ever  to 
be  denied  man  for  the  same  reason  that  the  beginning 
and  end  of  a  circle  are  to  be  denied. 


There  may  be  an  analogy — and  on  first  sight  it 
seems  that  there  must  be — between  both  the  state  and 
power  of  artistic  perceptions  and  the  law  of  perpetual 
change,  that  ever-flowing  stream  partly  biological, 
partly  cosmic,  ever  going  on  in  ourselves,  in  nature, 
in  all  life.  This  may  account  for  the  difficulty  of 
identifying  desired  qualities  with  the  perceptions  of 
them  in  expression.  Many  things  are  constantly 
coming  into  being,  while  others  are  constantly  going 


EPILOGUE  83 

out — one  part  of  the  same  thing  is  coming  in  while 
another  part  is  going  out  of  existence.  Perhaps  this 
is  why  the  above  conformity  in  art  (a  conformity 
which  we  seem  naturally  to  look  for)  appears  at  times 
so  unrealizable,  if  not  impossible.  It  will  be  assumed, 
to  make  this  theory  clearer,  that  the  "flow"  or 
"change"  does  not  go  on  in  the  art-product  itself. 
As  a  matter  of  fact  it  probably  does,  to  a  certain 
extent — a  picture,  or  a  song,  may  gain  or  lose  in  value 
beyond  what  the  painter  or  composer  knew,  by  the 
progress  and  higher  development  in  all  art.  Keats 
may  be  only  partially  true  when  he  says  that  "A  work 
of  beauty  is  a  joy  forever" — a  thing  that  is  beautiful 
to  me,  is  a  joy  to  me,  as  long  as  it  remains  beautiful 
to  me — and  if  it  remains  so  as  long  as  I  live,  it  is  so 
forever,  that  is,  forever  to  me.  If  he  had  put  it  this 
way,  he  would  have  been  tiresome,  inartistic,  but 
perhaps  truer.  So  we  will  assume  here  that  this 
change  only  goes  on  in  man  and  nature;  and  that 
this  eternal  process  in  mankind  is  paralleled  in  some 
way  during  each  temporary,  personal  life. 

A  young  man,  two  generations  ago,  found  an  iden- 
tity with  his  ideals,  in  Rossini;  when  an  older  man 
in  Wagner.  A  young  man,  one  generation  ago,  found 
his  in  Wagner,  but  when  older  in  Cesar  Franck  or 
Brahms.  Some  may  say  that  this  change  may  not 
be  general,  universal,  or  natural,  and  that  it  may  be 
due  to  a  certain  kind  of  education,  or  to  a  certain 
inherited  or  contracted  prejudice.  We  cannot  deny 
or  affirm  this,  absolutely,  nor  will  we  try  to  even 
qualitatively — except  to  say  that  it  will  be  generally 
admitted  that  Rossini,   to-day,  does  not  appeal  to 


84  EPILOGUE 

this  generation,  as  he  did  to  that  of  our  fathers.  As 
far  as  prejudice  or  undue  influence  is  concerned,  and 
as  an  illustration  in  point,  the  following  may  be  cited 
to  show  that  training  may  have  but  little  effect  in 
this  connection,  at  least  not  as  much  as  usually  sup- 
posed— for  we  believe  this  experience  to  be,  to  a 
certain  extent,  normal,  or  at  least,  not  uncommon. 
A  man  remembers,  when  he  was  a  boy  of  about  fif- 
teen years,  hearing  his  music-teacher  (and  father)  who 
had  just  returned  from  a  performance  of  Siegfried 
say  with  a  look  of  anxious  surprise  that  "somehow 
or  other  he  felt  ashamed  of  enjoying  the  music  as  he 
did,"  for  beneath  it  all  he  was  conscious  of  an  under- 
current of  "make-believe" — the  bravery  was  make- 
believe,  the  love  was  make-believe,  the  passion,  the 
virtue,  all  make-believe,  as  was  the  dragon — P.  T. 
Barnum  would  have  been  brave  enough  to  have  gone 
out  and  captured  a  live  one!  But,  that  same  boy  at 
twenty-five  was  listening  to  Wagner  with  enthusiasm, 
his  reality  was  real  enough  to  inspire  a  devotion.  The 
"Pries-Lied,"  for  instance,  stirred  him  deeply.  But 
when  he  became  middle-aged — and  long  before  the 
Hohenzollern  hog-marched  into  Belgium — this  music 
had  become  cloying,  the  melodies  threadbare — a  sense 
of  something  commonplace  —  yes  —  of  make-believe 
came.  These  feelings  were  fought  against  for  associa- 
tion's sake,  and  because  of  gratitude  for  bygone  pleas- 
ures— but  the  former  beauty  and  nobility  were  not 
there,  and  in  their  place  stood  irritating  intervals  of 
descending  fourths  and  fifths.  Those  once  transcend- 
ent progressions,  luxuriant  suggestions  of  Debussy 
chords  of  the  9th,  nth,  etc.,  were  becoming  slimy. 


EPILOGUE  85 

An  unearned  exultation — a  sentimentality  deadening 
something  within  hides  around  in  the  music.  Wagner 
seems  less  and  less  to  measure  up  to  the  substance 
and  reality  of  Cesar  Franck,  Brahms,  d'Indy,  or  even 
Elgar  (with  all  his  tiresomeness),  the  wholesome- 
ness,  manliness,  humility,  and  deep  spiritual,  possibly 
religious  feeling  of  these  men  seem  missing  and  not 
made  up  for  by  his  (Wagner's)  manner  and  eloquence, 
even  if  greater  than  theirs  (which  is  very  doubtful). 
From  the  above  we  would  try  to  prove  that  as  this 
stream  of  change  flows  towards  the  eventual  ocean 
of  mankind's  perfection,  the  art-works  in  which  we 
identify  our  higher  ideals  come  by  this  process  to  be 
identified  with  the  lower  ideals  of  those  who  embark 
after  us  when  the  stream  has  grown  in  depth.  If  we 
stop  with  the  above  experience,  our  theory  of  the 
effect  of  man's  changing  nature,  as  thus  explaining 
artistic  progress,  is  perhaps  sustained.  Thus  would 
we  show  that  the  perpetual  flow  of  the  life  stream  is 
affected  by  and  affects  each  individual  river-bed  of 
the  universal  watersheds.  Thus  would  we  prove  that 
the  Wagner  period  was  normal,  because  we  intuitively 
recognized  whatever  identity  we  were  looking  for  at 
a  certain  period  in  our  life,  and  the  fact  that  it  was  so 
made  the  Franck  period  possible  and  then  normal 
at  a  later  period  in  our  life.  Thus  would  we  assume 
that  this  is  as  it  should  be,  and  that  it  is  not  Wagner's 
content  or  substance  or  his  lack  of  virtue,  that  some- 
thing in  us  has  made  us  flow  past  him  and  not  he 
past  us.  But  something  blocks  our  theory!  Some- 
thing makes  our  hypotheses  seem  purely  speculative 
if  not  useless.     It  is  men  like  Bach  and  Beethoven. 


86  EPILOGUE 

Is  it  not  a  matter  nowadays  of  common  impression 
or  general  opinion  (for  the  law  of  averages  plays 
strongly  in  any  theory  relating  to  human  attributes) 
that  the  world's  attitude  towards  the  substance  and 
quality  and  spirit  of  these  two  men,  or  other  men  of 
like  character,  if  there  be  such,  has  not  been  affected 
by  the  flowing  stream  that  has  changed  us?  But  if 
by  the  measure  of  this  public  opinion,  as  well  as  it 
can  be  measured.  Bach  and  Beethoven  are  being 
flowed  past — not  as  fast  perhaps  as  Wagner  is,  but 
if  thc}^  are  being  passed  at  all  from  this  deeper  view- 
point, then  this  "change"  theory  holds. 

Here  we  shall  have  to  assume,  for  we  haven't 
proved  it,  that  artistic  intuitions  can  sense  in  music 
a  weakening  of  moral  strength  and  vitality,  and  that 
it  is  sensed  in  relation  to  Wagner  and  not  sensed  in 
relation  to  Bach  and  Beethoven.  If,  in  this  common 
opinion,  there  is  a  particle  of  change  toward  the  latter's 
art,  our  theory  stands — mind  you,  this  admits  a 
change  in  the  manner,  form,  external  expression,  etc., 
but  not  in  substance.  If  there  is  no  change  here 
towards  the  substance  of  these  two  men,  our  theory 
not  only  falls  but  its  failure  superimposes  or  allows 
us  to  presume  a  fundamental  duality  in  music,  and 
in  all  art  for  that  matter. 

Does  the  progress  of  intrinsic  beauty  or  truth  (we 
assume  there  is  such  a  thing)  have  its  exposures  as 
well  as  its  discoveries?  Does  the  non-acceptance  of 
the  foregoing  theory  mean  that  Wagner's  substance 
and  reality  are  lower  and  his  manner  higher;  that 
his  beauty  was  not  intrinsic;  that  he  was  more  inter- 
ested in  the  repose  of  pride  than  in  the  truth  of  hu- 


EPILOGUE  87 

mility?  It  appears  that  he  chose  the  representative 
instead  of  the  spirit  itself, — that  he  chose  consciously 
or  unconsciously,  it  matters  not, — the  lower  set  of 
values  in  this  dualism.  These  are  severe  accusations 
to  bring — especially  when  a  man  is  a  little  down  as 
Wagner  is  to-day.  But  these  convictions  were  present 
some  time  before  he  was  banished  from  the  Metro- 
politan. 

Wagner  seems  to  take  Hugo's  place  in  Faguet's 
criticism  of  de  Vigny  that,  "The  staging  to  him 
(Hugo)  was  the  important  thing — not  the  conception 
— that  in  de  Vigny,  the  artist  was  inferior  to  the  poet " ; 
finally  that  Hugo  and  so  Wagner  have  a  certain 
pauvrete  de  fond.  Thus  would  we  ungenerously  make 
Wagner  prove  our  sum!  But  it  is  a  sum  that  won't 
prove!  The  theory  at  its  best  does  little  more  than 
suggest  something,  which  if  it  is  true  at  all,  is  a  plati- 
tude, viz. :  that  progressive  growth  in  all  life  makes 
it  more  and  more  possible  for  men  to  separate,  in  an 
art-work,  moral  weakness  from  artistic  strength. 


Ill 

Human  attributes  are  definite  enough  when  it 
comes  to  their  description,  but  the  expression  of  them, 
or  the  paralleling  of  them  in  an  art-process,  has  to 
be,  as  said  above,  more  or  less  arbitrary,  but  we  be- 
lieve that  their  expression  can  be  less  vague  if  the 
basic  distinction  of  this  art-dualism  is  kept  in  mind. 
It  is  morally  certain  that  the  higher  part  is  founded, 
as  Sturt  suggests,  on  something  that  has  to  do  with 
those   kinds  of  unselfish  human  interests  which  we 


88  EPILOGUE 

call  knowledge  and  morality — knowledge,  not  in  the 
sense  of  erudition,  but  as  a  kind  of  creation  or  creative 
truth.  This  allows  us  to  assume  that  the  higher 
and  more  important  value  of  this  dualism  is  composed 
of  what  may  be  called  reality,  quality,  spirit,  or  sub- 
stance against  the  lower  value  of  form,  quantity,  or 
manner.  Of  these  terms  "substance"  seems  to  us 
the  most  appropriate,  cogent,  and  comprehensive 
for  the  higher  and  "manner"  for  the  under-value. 
Substance  in  a  human-art-quality  suggests  the  body 
of  a  conviction  which  has  its  birth  in  the  spiritual 
consciousness,  whose  youth  is  nourished  in  the  moral 
consciousness,  and  whose  maturity  as  a  result  of  all 
this  growth  is  then  represented  in  a  mental  image. 
This  is  appreciated  by  the  intuition,  and  somehow 
translated  into  expression  by  "manner" — a  process 
always  less  important  than  it  seems,  or  as  suggested 
by  the  foregoing  (in  fact  we  apologize  for  this  attempted 
definition).  So  it  seems  that  "substance"  is  too 
indefinite  to  analyze,  in  more  specific  terms.  It  is 
practically  indescribable.  Intuitions  (artistic  or  not?) 
will  sense  it — process,  unknown.  Perhaps  it  is  an 
unexplained  consciousness  of  being  nearer  God,  or 
being  nearer  the  devil — of  approaching  truth  or  ap- 
proaching unreality — a  silent  something  felt  in  the 
truth-of-nature  in  Turner  against  the  truth-of-art 
in  Botticelli,  or  in  the  fine  thinking  of  Ruskin  against 
the  fine  soundings  of  Kipling,  or  in  the  wide-expanse 
of  Titian  against  the  narrow-expanse  of  Carpaccio, 
or  in  some  such  distinction  that  Pope  sees  between 
what  he  calls  Homer's  "invention"  and  Virgil's 
"judgment" — apparently    an    inspired    imagination 


EPILOGUE  89 

against  an  artistic  care,  a  sense  of  the  difference, 
perhaps,  between  Dr.  Bushnell's  Knowing  God  and 
knowing  ahotd  God.  A  more  vivid  explanation  or 
illustration  may  be  found  in  the  difference  between 
Emerson  and  Poe.  The  former  seems  to  be  almost 
wholly  "substance"  and  the  latter  "manner."  The 
measure  in  artistic  satisfaction  of  Poe's  manner  is 
equal  to  the  measure  of  spiritual  satisfaction  in  Emer- 
son's "substance."  The  total  value  of  each  man  is 
high,  but  Emerson's  is  higher  than  Poe's  because 
"substance"  is  higher  than  "manner" — because 
"substance"  leans  towards  optimism,  and  "manner" 
pessimism.  We  do  not  know  that  all  this  is  so,  but 
we  feel,  or  rather  know  by  intuition  that  it  is  so,  in 
the  same  way  we  know  intuitively  that  right  is  higher 
than  wrong,  though  we  can't  always  tell  why  a  thing 
is  right  or  wrong,  or  what  is  always  the  difference  or 
the  margin  between  right  and  wrong. 

Beauty,  in  its  common  conception,  has  nothing  to 
do  with  it  (substance),  unless  it  be  granted  that  its 
outward  aspect,  or  the  expression  between  sensuous 
beauty  and  spiritual  beauty  can  be  always  and  dis- 
tinctly known,  which  it  cannot,  as  the  art  of  music 
is  still  in  its  infancy.  On  reading  this  over,  it  seems 
only  decent  that  some  kind  of  an  apology  be  made  for 
the  beginning  of  the  preceding  sentence.  It  cannot 
justly  be  said  that  anything  that  has  to  do  with  art 
has  nothing  to  do  with  beauty  in  any  degree, — that 
is,  whether  beauty  is  there  or  not,  it  has  something 
to  do  with  it.  A  casual  idea  of  it,  a  kind  of  a  first 
necessary-physical  impression,  was  what  we  had  in 
mind.     Probably  nobody  knows  what  actual  beauty 


90  EPILOGUE 

is — except  those  serious  writers  of  humorous  essays  in 
art  magazines,  who  accurately,  but  kindly,  with  club 
in  hand,  demonstrate  for  all  time  and  men  that  beauty 
is  a  quadratic  monomial;  that  it  is  absolute;  that  it 
is  relative;  that  it  is  not  relative,  that  it  is  not.  .  .  . 
The  word  "beauty"  is  as  easy  to  use  as  the  word 
"degenerate."  Both  come  in  handy  when  one  does 
or  does  not  agree  with  you.  For  our  part,  something 
that  Roussel-Despierres  says  comes  nearer  to  what 
we  like  to  think  beauty  is  .  .  .  "an  infinite  source 
of  good  .  .  .  the  love  of  the  beautiful  ...  a  con- 
stant anxiety  for  moral  beauty."  Even  here  we  go 
around  in  a  circle — a  thing  apparently  inevitable,  if 
one  tries  to  reduce  art  to  philosophy.  But  personally, 
we  prefer  to  go  around  in  a  circle  than  around  in  a 
parallelepipedon,  for  it  seems  cleaner  and  perhaps 
freer  from  mathematics — or  for  the  same  reason  we 
prefer  Whittier  to  Baudelaire — a  poet  to  a  genius, 
or  a  healthy  to  a  rotten  apple — probably  not  so  much 
because  it  is  more  nutritious,  but  because  we  like  its 
taste  better;  we  like  the  beautiful  and  don't  like  the 
ugly;  therefore,  what  we  like  is  beautiful,  and  what 
we  don't  like  is  ugly — and  hence  we  are  glad  the  beau- 
tiful is  not  ugly,  for  if  it  were  we  would  like  something 
we  don't  like.  So  having  unsettled  what  beauty  is, 
let  us  go  on. 

At  any  rate,  we  are  going  to  be  arbitrary  enough  to 
claim,  with  no  definite  qualification,  that  substance 
can  be  expressed  in  music,  and  that  it  is  the  only 
valuable  thing  in  it,  and  moreover  that  in  two  separate 
pieces  of  music  in  which  the  notes  are  almost  identical, 
one  can  be  of  "substance"   with  little   "manner,'' 


EPILOGUE  91 

and  the  other  can  be  of  "manner"  with  little  "sub- 
stance." Substance  has  something  to  do  with  char- 
acter. Manner  has  nothing  to  do  with  it.  The 
"substance"  of  a  tune  comes  from  somewhere  near 
the  soul,  and  the  "manner"  comes  from — God  knows 
where. 

IV 

The  lack  of  interest  to  preserve,  or  ability  to  per- 
ceive the  fundamental  divisions  of  this  duality  ac- 
counts to  a  large  extent,  we  believe,  for  some  or  many 
various  phenomena  (pleasant  or  unpleasant  accord- 
ing to  the  personal  attitude)  of  modern  art,  and  all 
art.  It  is  evidenced  in  many  ways — the  sculptors' 
over-insistence  on  the  "mold,"  the  outer  rather  than 
the  inner  subject  or  content  of  his  statue — over- 
enthusiasm  for  local  color — over-interest  in  the  multi- 
plicity of  techniques,  in  the  idiomatic,  in  the  effect  as 
shown,  by  the  appreciation  of  an  audience  rather  than 
in  the  effect  on  the  ideals  of  the  inner  conscience  of 
the  artist  or  the  composer.  This  lack  of  perceiving 
is  too  often  shown  by  an  over-interest  in  the  material 
value  of  the  effect.  The  pose  of  self-absorption, 
which  some  men,  in  the  advertising  business  (and 
incidentally  in  the  recital  and  composing  business) 
put  into  their  photographs  or  the  portraits  of  them- 
selves, while  all  dolled  up  in  their  purple-dressing- 
gowns,  in  their  twofold  wealth  of  golden  hair,  in 
their  cissy-like  postures  over  the  piano  keys — this 
pose  of  "manner"  sometimes  sounds  out  so  loud 
that  the  more  their  music  is  played,  the  less  it  is 
heard.     For  does  not  Emerson  tell  them  this  when 


92  EPILOGUE 

he  says  "What  you  are  talks  so  loud,  that  I  cannot 
hear  what  you  say"?  The  unescapable  impression 
that  one  sometimes  gets  by  a  glance  at  these  public- 
inflicted  trade-marks,  and  without  having  heard  or 
seen  any  of  their  music,  is  that  the  one  great  under- 
lying desire  of  these  appearing-artists,  is  to  impress, 
perhaps  startle  and  shock  their  audiences  and  at 
any  cost.  This  may  have  some  such  effect  upon 
some  of  the  lady-part  (male  or  female)  of  their 
listeners  but  possibly  the  members  of  the  men-part, 
who  as  boys  liked  hockey  better  than  birthday- 
parties,  may  feel  like  shocking  a  few  of  these  picture- 
sitters  with  something  stronger  than  their  own 
forzandos. 

The  insistence  upon  manner  in  its  relation  to  local 
color  is  wider  than  a  self-strain  for  effect.  If  local  color 
is  a  natural  part,  that  is,  a  part  of  substance,  the  art- 
effort  cannot  help  but  show  its  color — and  it  will  be  a 
true  color,  no  matter  how  colored;  if  it  is  a  part,  even 
a  natural  part  of  "manner,"  either  the  color  part  is 
bound  eventuall}^  to  drive  out  the  local  part  or  the 
local  drive  out  all  color.  Here  a  process  of  cancellation 
or  destruction  is  going  on — a  kind  of  "compromise" 
which  destroys  by  deadlock;  a  compromise  purchas- 
ing a  selfish  pleasure — a  decadence  in  which  art  becomes 
first  dull,  then  dark,  then  dead,  though  through- 
out this  process  it  is  outwardly  very  much  alive, — 
especially  after  it  is  dead.  The  same  tendency  may 
even  be  noticed  if  there  is  over-insistence  upon  the 
national  in  art.  Substance  tends  to  create  affection; 
manner  prejudice.  The  latter  tends  to  efface  the 
distinction   between   the   love   of   both   a   country's 


EPILOGUE  93 

virtue  and  vices,  and  the  love  of  only  the  virtue.  A 
true  love  of  country  is  likely  to  be  so  big  that  it  will 
embrace  the  virtue  one  sees  in  other  countries  and, 
in  the  same  breath,  so  to  speak.  A  composer  born 
in  America,  but  who  has  not  been  interested  in  the 
"cause  of  the  Freedmen,"  may  be  so  interested  in 
"negro  melodies,"  that  he  writes  a  symphony  over 
them.  He  is  conscious  (perhaps  only  subconscious) 
that  he  wishes  it  to  be  "American  music."  He  tries 
to  forget  that  the  paternal  negro  came  from  Africa. 
Is  his  music  American  or  African?  That  is  the  great 
question  which  keeps  him  awake!  But  the  sadness 
of  it  is,  that  if  he  had  been  born  in  Africa,  his  music 
might  have  been  just  as  American,  for  there  is  good 
authority  that  an  African  soul  under  an  X-ray  looks 
identically  like  an  American  soul.  There  is  a  futility 
in  selecting  a  certain  type  to  represent  a  "whole," 
unless  the  interest  in  the  spirit  of  the  type  coincides 
with  that  of  the  whole.  In  other  words,  if  this  com- 
poser isn't  as  deeply  interested  in  the  "cause"  as 
Wendell  Phillips  was,  when  he  fought  his  way  through 
that  ant i- abolitionist  crowd  at  Faneuil  Hall,  his 
music  is  liable  to  be  less  American  than  he  wishes. 
If  a  middle-aged  man,  upon  picking  up  the  Scottish 
Chiefs,  finds  that  his  boyhood  enthusiasm  for  the 
prowess  and  noble  deeds  and  character  of  Sir  Wm. 
Wallace  and  of  Bruce  is  still  present,  let  him  put, 
or  try  to  put  that  glory  into  an  overture,  let  him  fill 
it  chuck-full  of  Scotch  tunes,  if  he  will.  But  after 
all  is  said  and  sung  he  will  find  that  his  music  is 
American  to  the  core  (assuming  that  he  is  an  American 
and  wishes  his  music  to  be).     It  will  be  as  national 


94  EPILOGUE 

in  character  as  the  heart  of  that  Grand  Army  Grand- 
father, who  read  those  Cragmore  Tales  of  a  summer 
evening,  when  that  boy  had  brought  the  cows  home 
without  witching.  Perhaps  the  memories  of  the  old 
soldier,  to  which  this  man  still  holds  tenderly,  may  be 
turned  into  a  "strain"  or  a  "sonata,"  and  though  the 
music  does  not  contain,  or  even  suggest  any  of  the  old 
war-songs,  it  will  be  as  sincerely  American  as  the 
subject,  provided  his  (the  composer's)  interest,  spirit, 
arid  character  sympathize  with,  or  intuitively  coin- 
cide with  that  of  the  subject. 

Again,  if  a  man  finds  that  the  cadences  of  an  Apache 
war-dance  come  nearest  to  his  soul,  provided  he  has 
taken  pains  to  know  enough  other  cadences — for 
eclecticism  is  part  of  his  duty — sorting  potatoes  means 
a  better  crop  next  year — let  him  assimilate  whatever 
he  finds  highest  of  the  Indian  ideal,  so  that  he  can  use 
it  with  the  cadences,  fervently,  transcendentally,  in- 
evitably, furiously,  in  his  symphonies,  in  his  operas, 
in  his  whistlings  on  the  way  to  work,  so  that  he  can 
paint  his  house  with  them — make  them  a  part  of  his 
prayer-book — this  is  all  possible  and  necessary,  if  he 
is  confident  that  they  have  a  part  in  his  spiritual 
consciousness.  With  this  assurance  his  music  will 
have  everything  it  should  of  sincerity,  nobility, 
strength,  and  beauty,  no  matter  how  it  sounds;  and 
if,  with  this,  he  is  true  to  none  but  the  highest  of 
American  ideals  (that  is,  the  ideals  only  that  coincide 
with  his  spiritual  consciousness)  his  music  will  be 
true  to  itself  and  incidentally  American,  and  it  will 
be  so  even  after  it  is  proved  that  all  our  Indians  came 
from  Asia. 


EPILOGUE  95 

The  man  "born  down  to  Babbitt's  Corners,"  may 
find  a  deep  appeal  in  the  simple  but  acute  "Gospel 
Hymns  of  the  New  England  camp  meetin',"  of  a 
generation  or  so  ago.  He  finds  in  them — some  of 
them — a  vigor,  a  depth  of  feeling,  a  natural-soil 
rhythm,  a  sincerity,  emphatic  but  inartistic,  which, 
in  spite  of  a  vociferous  sentimentality,  carries  him 
nearer  the  "Christ  of  the  people"  than  does  the  Te 
Deum  of  the  greatest  cathedral.  These  tunes  have, 
for  him,  a  truer  ring  than  many  of  those  groove- 
made,  even-measured,  monotonous,  non-rhythmed, 
indoor-smelling,  priest-taught,  academic,  English  or 
neo-English  hymns  (and  anthems)  —  well-written, 
well-harmonized  things,  well- voice-led,  well-counter- 
pointed,  well  corrected,  and  well  O.K'd,  by  well 
corrected  Mus.  Bac.  R.F.O.G.'s — personified  sounds, 
correct  and  inevitable  to  sight  and  hearing — in  a 
word,  those  proper  forms  of  stained-glass  beauty, 
which  our  over-drilled  mechanisms — boy-choirs  are 
limited  to.  But,  if  the  Yankee  can  reflect  the  fer- 
vency with  which  ' '  his  gospels ' '  were  sung — the  fer- 
vency of  "Aunt  Sarah,"  who  scrubbed  her  life  away, 
for  her  brother's  ten  orphans,  the  fervency  with 
which  this  woman,  after  a  fourteen-hour  work  day 
on  the  farm,  would  hitch  up  and  drive  five  miles, 
through  the  mud  and  rain  to  "prayer  meetin'  " 
— her  one  articulate  outlet  for  the  fullness  of  her 
unselfish  soul — if  he  can  reflect  the  fervency  of  such 
a  spirit,  he  may  find  there  a  local  color  that  will  do 
all  the  world  good.  If  his  music  can  but  catch  that 
"spirit"  by  being  a  part  with  itself,  it  will  come  some- 
where near  his  ideal — and  it  will  be  American,  too. 


96  EPILOGUE 

perhaps  nearer  so  than  that  of  the  devotee  of  Indian 
or  negro  melody.  In  other  words,  if  local  color, 
national  color,  any  color,  is  a  true  pigment  of  the 
universal  color,  it  is  a  divine  quality,  it  is  a  part  of 
substance  in  art — not  of  manner. 

The  preceding  illustrations  are  but  attempts  to 
show  that  whatever  excellence  an  artist  sees  in  life, 
a  community,  in  a  people,  or  in  any  valuable  object 
or  experience,  if  sincerely  and  intuitively  reflected  in 
his  work,  his  work,  and  so  he  himself,  is,  in  a  way, 
a  reflected  part  of  that  excellence.  Whether  he  be  ac- 
cepted or  rejected,  whether  his  music  is  always  played, 
or  never  played — all  this  has  nothing  to  do  with  it — 
it  is  true  or  false  by  his  own  measure.  If  we  may  be 
permitted  to  leave  out  two  words,  and  add  a  few  more, 
a  sentence  of  Hegel  appears  to  sum  up  this  idea, 
"The  universal  need  for  expression  in  art  lies  in  man's 
rational  impulse  to  exalt  the  inner  .  .  .  world  {i.  e., 
the  highest  ideals  he  sees  in  the  inner  life  of  others) 
together  with  what  he  finds  in  his  own  life — into  a 
spiritual  consciousness  for  himself."  The  artist  does 
feel  or  does  not  feel  that  a  sympathy  has  been  ap- 
proved by  an  artistic  intuition  and  so  reflected  in  his 
work.  Whether  he  feels  this  sympathy  is  true  or  not 
in  the  final  analysis,  is  a  thing  probably  that  no  one 
but  he  (the  artist)  knows — but  the  truer  he  feels  it, 
the  more  substance  it  has,  or  as  Sturt  puts  it,  "his 
work  is  art,  so  long  as  he  feels  in  doing  it  as  true  artists 
feel,  and  so  long  as  his  object  is  akin  to  the  objects 
that  true  artists  admire." 

Dr.    Griggs   in    an   Essay    on    Debussy,^    asks    if 
*  John  C.  Griggs,  "  Debussy,"  Yale  Review,  1914. 


EPILOGUE  97 

this  composer's  content  is  worthy  the  manner.  Per- 
haps so,  perhaps  not — Debussy  himself,  doubtless, 
could  not  give  a  positive  answer.  He  would  better 
know  how  true  his  feeling  and  sympathy  was,  and 
anyone  else's  personal  opinion  can  be  of  but  little  help 
here. 

We  might  offer  the  suggestion  that  Debussy's 
content  would  have  been  worthier  his  manner,  if  he 
had  hoed  corn  or  sold  newspapers  for  a  living,  for  in 
this  way  he  might  have  gained  a  deeper  vitality  and 
truer  theme  to  sing  at  night  and  of  a  Sunday.  Or  we 
might  say  that  what  substance  there  is,  is  "too 
coherent" — it  is  too  clearly  expressed  in  the  first 
thirty  seconds.  There  you  have  the  **  whole  frag- 
ment," a  translucent  syllogism,  but  then  the  reality, 
the  spirit,  the  substance  stops  and  the  "form,"  the 
"parfume,"  the  "manner,"  shimmer  right  along,  as 
the  soapsuds  glisten  after  one  has  finished  washing. 
Or  we  might  say  that  his  substance  would  have  been 
worthier,  if  his  adoration  or  contemplation  of  Nature, 
which  is  often  a  part  of  it,  and  which  rises  to  great 
heights,  as  is  felt  for  example,  in  La  Mer,  had  been 
more  the  quality  of  Thoreau's.  Debussy's  attitude 
toward  Nature  seems  to  have  a  kind  of  sensual  sensu- 
ousness  underlying  it,  while  Thoreau's  is  a  kind  of 
spiritual  sensuousness.  It  is  rare  to  find  a  farmer  or 
peasant  whose  enthusiasm  for  the  beauty  in  Nature 
finds  outward  expression  to  compare  with  that  of 
the  city-man  who  comes  out  for  a  Sunday  in  the 
country,  but  Thoreau  is  that  rare  country-man  and 
Debussy  the  city-man  with  his  week-end  flights  into 
country-aesthetics.     We    would    be    inclined    to    say 

7 


98  EPILOGUE 

that  Thoreau  leaned  towards  substance  and  Debussy 
towards  manner. 


There  comes  from  Concord,  an  offer  to  every  mind 
— the  choice  between  repose  and  truth,  and  God 
makes  the  offer.  "Take  which  you  please  .  .  . 
between  these,  as  a  pendulum,  man  oscillates.  He  in 
whom  the  love  of  repose  predominates  will  accept 
the  first  creed,  the  first  philosophy,  the  first  political 
party  he  meets,"  most  likely  his  father's.  He  gets 
rest,  commodity,  and  reputation.  Here  is  another 
aspect  of  art-duality,  but  it  is  more  drastic  than 
ours,  as  it  would  eliminate  one  part  or  the  other.  A 
man  ma^^  aim  as  high  as  Beethoven  or  as  high  as 
Richard  Strauss.  In  the  former  case  the  shot  may 
go  far  below  the  mark;  in  truth,  it  has  not  been 
reached  since  that  "thunder  storm  of  1828"  and  there 
is  little  chance  that  it  will  be  reached  by  anyone  liv- 
ing to-day,  but  that  matters  not,  the  shot  will  never 
rebound  and  destroy  the  marksman.  But,  in  the 
latter  case,  the  shot  may  often  hit  the  mark,  but  as 
often  rebound  and  harden,  if  not  destroy,  the  shooter's 
heart — even  his  soul.  What  matters  it,  men  say,  he 
will  then  find  rest,  commodity,  and  reputation — what 
matters  it — if  he  find  there  but  few  perfect  truths — 
what  matters  (men  say) — he  will  find  there  perfect 
media,  those  perfect  instruments  of  getting  in  the 
way  of  perfect  truths. 

This  choice  tells  why  Beethoven  is  always  modern 
and  Strauss  always  mediaeval — try  as  he  may  to 
cover  it  up  in  new  bottles.     He  has  chosen  to  capital- 


EPILOGUE  99 

ize  a  "talent" — he  has  chosen  the  complexity  of 
media,  the  shining  hardness  of  externals,  repose, 
against  the  inner,  invisible  activity  of  truth.  He  has 
chosen  the  first  creed,  the  easy  creed,  the  philosophy 
of  his  fathers,  among  whom  he  found  a  half-idiot- 
genius  (Nietzsche).  His  choice  naturally  leads  him 
to  glorify  and  to  magnify  all  kind  of  dull  things — a 
stretched-out  geigermusik — which  in  turn  naturally 
leads  him  to  "windmills"  and  "human  heads  on 
silver  platters."  Magnifying  the  dull  into  the 
colossal,  produces  a  kind  of  "comfort" — the  comfort 
of  a  woman  who  takes  more  pleasure  in  the  fit  of 
fashionable  clothes  than  in  a  healthy  body — the  kind 
of  comfort  that  has  brought  so  many  "adventures  of 
baby-carriages  at  county  fairs"  —  "the  sensation 
of  Teddy  bears,  smoking  their  first  cigarette  "—on 
the  program  of  symphony  orchestras  of  one  hundred 
performers, — the  lure  of  the  media — the  means — 
not  the  end — but  the  finish, — thus  the  failure  to 
perceive  that  thoughts  and  memories  of  childhood 
are  too  tender,  and  some  of  them  too  sacred  to  be 
worn  lightly  on  the  sleeve.  Life  is  too  short  for  these 
one  hundred  men,  to  say  nothing  of  the  composer 
and  the  "dress-circle,"  to  spend  an  afternoon  in  this 
way.  They  are  but  like  the  rest  of  us,  and  have  only 
the  expectancy  of  the  mortality-table  to  survive — 
perhaps  only  this  "piece."  V'e  cannot  but  feel  that 
a  too  great  desire  for  "repose"  accounts  for  such 
phenomena.  A  MS.  score  is  brought  to  a  concert- 
master — he  may  be  a  violinivSt — he  is  kindly  disposed, 
he  looks  it  over,  and  casually  fastens  on  a  passage 
"that's  bad  for  the  fiddh';.,  it  doesn't  hang  just  right, 


100  EPILOGUE 

write  it  like  this,  they  will  play  it  better."  But  that 
one  phrase  is  the  germ  of  the  whole  thing.  "Never 
mind,  it  will  fit  the  hand  better  this  way — it  will 
sound  better."  My  God!  what  has  sound  got  to 
do  with  music!  The  waiter  brings  the  only  fresh 
egg  he  has,  but  the  man  at  breakfast  sends  it  back 
because  it  doesn't  fit  his  eggcup.  Why  can't  music 
go  out  in  the  same  way  it  comes  in  to  a  man,  without 
having  to  crawl  over  a  fence  of  sounds,  thoraxes, 
catguts,  wire,  wood,  and  brass?  Consecutive-fifths 
are  as  harmless  as  blue  laws  compared  with  the  relent- 
less tyranny  of  the  "media."  The  instrument! — 
there  is  the  perennial  difficulty — there  is  music's 
limitations.  Why  must  the  scarecrow  of  the  key- 
board— the  tyrant  in  terms  of  the  mechanism  (be  it 
Caruso  or  a  Jew's-harp)  stare  into  every  measure? 
Is  it  the  composer's  fault  that  man  has  only  ten 
fingers?  Why  can't  a  musical  thought  be  presented 
as  it  is  bom — perchance  "a  bastard  of  the  slums," 
or  a  "daugh*-er  of  a  bishop" — and  if  it  happens  to 
go  better  later  on  a  bass-drum  (than  upon  a  harp) 
get  a  good  bass-drummer.^  That  music  must  be 
heard,  is  not  essential — what  it  sounds  like  may  not 
be  what  it  is.  Perhaps  the  day  is  coming  when  music- 
believers  will  learn  "that  silence  is  a  solvent  .  .  .  that 
gives  us  leave  to  be  universal"  rather  than  personal. 

^The  first  movement  (Emerson)  of  the  music,  which  is  the 
cause  of  all  these  words,  was  f^rst  thought  of  (we  believe)  in 
terms  of  a  large  orchestra,  the  second  (Hawthorne)  in  terms  of 
a  piano  or  a  dozen  pianos,  the  third  (Allcotts) — of  an  organ  (or 
piano  with  voice  or  violin),  an«.  the  last  (Thoreau),  in  terms  of 
strings,  colored  possibly  with  a  '  tne  or  horn. 


EPILOGUE  loi 

Some  fiddler  was  once  honest  or  brave  enough,  or 
perhaps  ignorant  enough,  to  say  that  Beethoven 
didn't  know  how  to  write  for  the  violin, — that,  may- 
be, is  one  of  the  many  reasons  Beethoven  is  not  a 
Vieuxtemps.  Another  man  says  Beethoven's  piano 
sonatas  are  not  pianistic — with  a  little  effort,  perhaps, 
Beethoven  could  have  become  a  Thalberg.  His 
symphonies  are  perfect-truths  and  perfect  for  the 
orchestra  of  1820 — but  Mahler  could  have  made 
them — possibly  did  make  them — we  will  say,  "more 
perfect,"  as  far  as  their  media  clothes  are  concerned, 
and  Beethoven  is  to-day  big  enough  to  rather  like  it. 
He  is  probably  in  the  same  amiable  state  of  mind  that 
the  Jesuit  priest  said,  "God  was  in,"  when  He  looked 
down  on  the  camp  ground  and  saw  the  priest  sleeping 
with  a  Congregational  Chaplain.  Or  in  the  same  state 
of  mind  you'll  be  in  when  you  look  down  and  see  the 
sexton  keeping  your  tombstone  up  to  date.  The 
truth  of  Joachim  offsets  the  repose  of  Paganini  and 
Kubelik.  The  repose  and  reputation  of  a  successful 
pianist — (whatever  that  means)  who  plays  Chopin 
so  cleverly  that  he  covers  up  a  sensuality,  and  in  such 
a  way  that  the  purest-minded  see  nothing  but  sen- 
suous beauty  in  it,  which,  by  the  way,  doesn't  dis- 
turb him  as  much  as  the  size  of  his  income-tax — the 
repose  and  fame  of  this  man  is  offset  by  the  truth 
and  obscurity  of  the  village  organist  who  plays 
Lowell  Mason  and  Bach  with  such  affection  that  he 
would  give  his  life  rather  than  lose  them.  The  truth 
and  courage  of  this  organist,  who  risks  his  job,  to 
fight  the  prejudice  of  the  congregation,  offset  the 
repose  and  large  salar}^  of  a  more  celebrated  choir- 


102  EPILOGUE 

master,  who  holds  his  job  by  lowering  his  ideals, 
who  is  willing  to  let  the  organ  smirk  under  an  insipid, 
easy-sounding  barcarolle  for  the  offertory,  who  is 
willing  to  please  the  sentimental  ears  of  the  music 
committee  (and  its  wives) — who  is  more  willing  to 
observe  these  forms  of  politeness  than  to  stand  up 
for  a  stronger  and  deeper  music  of  simple  devotion, 
and  for  a  service  of  a  spiritual  unity,  the  kind  of  thing 
that  Mr.  Bossitt,  who  owns  the  biggest  country  place, 
the  biggest  bank,  and  the  biggest  "House  of  God" 
in  town  (for  is  it  not  the  divine  handiwork  of  his 
own — pocketbook) — the  kind  of  music  that  this  man, 
his  wife,  and  his  party  (of  property  right  in  pews) 
can't  stand  because  it  isn't  "pretty." 

The  doctrine  of  this  "choice"  may  be  extended  to 
the  distinction  between  literal-enthusiasm  and  natural- 
enthusiasm  (right  or  wrong  notes,  good  or  bad  tones 
against  good  or  bad  interpretation,  good  or  bad  senti- 
ment) or  between  observation  and  introspection,  or 
to  the  distinction  between  remembering  and  dreaming. 
Strauss  remembers,  Beethoven  dreams.  We  see 
this  distinction  also  in  Goethe's  confusion  of  the 
moral  with  the  intellectual.  There  is  no  such  confu- 
sion in  Beethoven — to  him  they  are  one.  It  is  told, 
and  the  story  is  so  well  known  that  we  hesitate  to 
repeat  it  here,  that  both  these  men  were  standing 
in  the  street  one  day  when  the  Emperor  drove  by 
— Goethe,  like  the  rest  of  the  crowd,  bowed  and 
uncovered — but  Beethoven  stood  bolt  upright,  and 
refused  even  to  salute,  saying:  "Let  him  bow  to  us, 
for  ours  is  a  nobler  empire."  Goethe's  mind  knew  this 
was  true,  but  his  moral  courage  was  not  instinctive. 


EPILOGUE  103 

This  remembering  faculty  of  "repose,"  throws  the 
mind  in  unguarded  moments  quite  naturally  towards 
"manner"  and  thus  to  the  many  things  the  media 
can  do.  It  brings  on  an  itching  to  over-use  them — 
to  be  original  (if  anyone  will  tell  what  that  is)  with 
nothing  but  numbers  to  be  original  with.  We  are 
told  that  a  conductor  (of  the  orchestra)  has  written 
a  symphony  requiring  an  orchestra  of  one  hundred 
and  fifty  men.  If  his  work  perhaps  had  one  hundred 
and  fifty  valuable  ideas,  the  one  hundred  and  fifty 
men  might  be  justifiable — but  as  it  probably  contains 
not  more  than  a  dozen,  the  composer  may  be  uncon- 
sciously ashamed  of  them,  and  glad  to  cover  them 
up  under  a  hundred  and  fifty  men.  A  man  may 
become  famous  because  he  is  able  to  eat  nineteen 
dinners  a  day,  but  posterity  will  decorate  his  stomach, 
not  his  brain. 

Manner  breeds  a  cussed-cleverness  — only  to  be 
clever — a  satellite  of  super-industrialism,  and  perhaps 
to  be  witty  in  the  bargain,  not  the  wit  in  mother-wit, 
but  a  kind  of  indoor,  artificial,  mental  arrangement 
of  things  quickly  put  together  and  which  have  been 
learned  and  studied — it  is  of  the  material  and  stays 
there,  while  humor  is  of  the  emotional  and  of  the 
approaching  spiritual.  Even  Dukas,  and  perhaps 
other  Gauls,  in  their  critical  heart  of  hearts,  may  admit 
that  "wit"  in  music,  is  as  impossible  as  "wit"  at  a 
funeral.  The  wit  is  evidence  of  its  lack.  Mark 
Twain  could  be  humorous  at  the  death  of  his  dearest 
friend,  but  in  such  a  way  as  to  put  a  blessing  into  the 
heart  of  the  bereaved.  Humor  in  music  has  the  same 
possibilities.     But  its  quantity  has  a  serious  effect 


I04  EPILOGUE 

on  its  qualit}^  "inverse  ratio"  is  a  good  formula  to 
adopt  here.  Comedy  has  its  part,  but  wit  never. 
Strauss  is  at  his  best  in  these  lower  rooms,  but  his 
comedy  reminds  us  more  of  the  physical  fun  of  Lever 
rather  than  "comedy  in  the  Meredithian  sense"  as 
Mason  suggests.  Meredith  is  a  little  too  deep  or  too 
subtle  for  Strauss — unless  it  be  granted  that  cynicism 
is  more  a  part  of  comedy  than  a  part  of  refined- 
insult.  Let  us  also  remember  that  Mr.  Disston,  not 
Mr.  Strauss,  put  the  funny  notes  in  the  bassoon. 
A  symphony  written  only  to  amuse  and  entertain 
is  likely  to  amuse  only  the  writer — and  him  not  long 
after  the  check  is  cashed. 

"Genius  is  always  ascetic  and  piety  and  love," 
thus  Emerson  reinforces  "God's  offer  of  this  choice" 
by  a  transcendental  definition.  The  moment  a  famous 
violinist  refused  "to  appear"  until  he  had  received 
his  check, — at  that  moment,  precisely  (assuming  for 
argument's  sake,  that  this  was  the  first  time  that 
materialism  had  the  ascendency  in  this  man's  soul) 
at  that  moment  he  became  but  a  man  of  "talent" — 
incidentally,  a  small  man  and  a  small  violinist,  regard- 
less of  how  perfectly  he  played,  regardless  to  what 
heights  of  emotion  he  stirred  his  audience,  regard- 
less of  the  sublimity  of  his  artistic  and  financial 
success. 

d'Annunzio,  it  is  told,  becoming  somewhat  dis- 
couraged at  the  result  of  some  of  his  Fiume  adven- 
tures said  :  "  We  are  the  only  Idealists  left."  This 
remark  ma}^  have  been  made  in  a  moment  of  careless 
impulse,  but  if  it  is  taken  at  its  face  value,  the 
moment  it  was  made  that  moment  his  idealism  started 


EPILOGUE  105 

downhill.  A  grasp  at  monopoly  indicates  that  a  sud- 
den shift  has  taken  place  from  the  heights  where  genius 
may  be  found,  to  the  lower  plains  of  talent.  The 
mind  of  a  true  idealist  is  great  enough  to  know  that 
a  monopoly  of  idealism  or  of  wheat  is  a  thing  nature 
does  not  support. 

A  newspaper  music  column  prints  an  incident 
(so  how  can  we  assume  that  it  is  not  true?)  of  an 
American  violinist  who  called  on  Max  Reger,  to  tell 
him  how  much  he  (the  American)  appreciated  his 
music.  Reger  gives  him  a  hopeless  look  and  cries: 
' '  What !  a  musician  and  not  speak  German ! "  At  that 
moment,  by  the  clock,  regardless  of  how  great  a  genius 
he  may  have  been  before  that  sentence  was  uttered — at 
that  moment  he  became  but  a  man  of  * '  talent. ' '  * '  For 
the  man  of  talent  affects  to  call  his  transgressions  of 
the  laws  of  sense  trivial  and  to  count  them  nothing 
considered  with  his  devotion  to  his  art."  His  art 
never  taught  him  prejudice  or  to  wear  only  one  eye. 
"  His  art  is  less  for  every  deduction  from  his  holiness 
and  less  for  every  defect  of  common  sense."  And 
this  common  sense  has  a  great  deal  to  do  with  this 
distinguishing  difference  of  Emerson's  between  genius 
and  talent,  repose  and  truth,  and  between  all  evidences 
of  substance  and  manner  in  art.  Manner  breeds 
partialists.  "Is  America  a  musical  nation?" — if  the 
man  who  is  ever  asking  this  question  would  sit  down 
and  think  something  over  he  might  find  less  interest  in 
asking  it — he  might  possibly  remember  that  all  nations 
are  more  musical  than  any  nation,  especially  the 
nation  that  pays  the  most — and  pays  the  most  eagerly, 
for  anything,  after  it  has  been  professionally — rubber- 


io6  EPILOGUE 

stamped.  Music  may  be  yet  unborn.  Perhaps  no 
music  has  ever  been  written  or  heard.  Perhaps  the 
birth  of  art  will  take  place  at  the  moment,  in  which  the 
last  man,  who  is  willing  to  make  a  living  out  of  art 
is  gone  and  gone  forever.  In  the  history  of  this 
youthful  world  the  best  product  that  human-beings 
can  boast  of  is  probably,  Beethoven — but,  maybe, 
even  his  art  is  as  nothing  in  comparison  with  the  future 
product  of  some  coal-miner's  soul  in  the  forty-first 
century.  And  the  same  man  who  is  ever  asking  about 
the  most  musical  nation,  is  ever  discovering  the  most 
musical  man  of  the  most  musical  nation.  When 
particularly  hysterical  he  shouts,  "I  have  found  him ! 
Smith  Grabholz — the  one  great  American  poet, — at 
last,  here  is  the  Moses  the  country  has  been  waiting 
for" — (of  course  we  all  know  that  the  country  has  not 
been  waiting  for  anybody — and  we  have  many  Moses 
always  with  us).  But  the  discoverer  keeps  right  on 
shouting  "Here  is  the  one  true  American  poetry,  I 
pronounce  it  the  work  of  a  genius.  I  predict  for  him 
the  most  brilliant  career — for  his  is  an  art  that  .  .  . — 
for  his  is  a  soul  that  .  .  .  for  his  is  a  .  .  .  and  Grab- 
holz is  ruined; — but  ruined,  not  alone,  by  this  peren- 
nial discoverer  of  pearls  in  any  oyster-shell  that  treats 
him  the  best,  but  ruined  by  his  own  (Grabholz's) 
talent, — for  genius  will  never  let  itself  be  discovered  by 
**a  man."  Then  the  world  may  ask  "Can  the  one 
true  national  "this"  or  "that"  be  killed  by  its  own 
discoverer?  "No,"  the  country  replies,  "but  each 
discovery  is  proof  of  another  impossibility."  It  is  a 
sad  fact  that  the  one  true  man  and  the  one  true  art 
will  never  behave  as  they  should  except  in  the  mind  of 


EPILOGUE  107 

the  partialist  whom  God  has  forgotten.  But  this 
matters  little  to  him  (the  man) — his  business  is  good — 
for  it  is  easy  to  sell  the  future  in  terms  of  the  past — and 
there  are  always  some  who  will  buy  anything.  The 
individual  usually  ''gains''  if  he  is  willing  to  but  lean 
on  "manner."  The  evidence  of  this  is  quite  wide- 
spread, for  if  the  discoverer  happens  to  be  in  any  other 
line  of  business  his  sudden  discoveries  would  be  just  as 
important — to  him.  In  fact,  the  theory  of  substance 
and  manner  in  art  and  its  related  dualisms,  "repose 
and  truth,  genius  and  talent,"  &c.,  may  find  illus- 
tration in  many,  perhaps  most,  of  the  human  activities. 
And  when  examined  it  (the  illustration)  is  quite  likely 
to  show  how  "manner  "  is  always  discovering  partisans. 
For  example,  enthusiastic  discoveries  of  the  "para- 
gon" is  common  in  politics, — an  art  to  some.  These 
revelations,  in  this  profession  are  made  easy  by  the 
pre-election  discovering-leaders  of  the  people.  And 
the  genius  who  is  discovered,  forthwith  starts  his 
speeches  of  "talent" — though  they  are  hardly  that — 
they  are  hardly  more  than  a  string  of  subplatitudes, 
square-looking,  well-rigged  things  that  almost  every- 
body has  seen,  known,  and  heard  since  Rome  or  man 
fell.  Nevertheless  these  signs  of  perfect  manner, 
these  series  of  noble  sentiments  that  the  "noble "  never 
get  off,  are  forcibly,  clearly,  and  persuasively  handed 
out — eloquently,  even  beautifully  expressed,  and  with 
such  personal  charm,  magnetism,  and  strength,  that 
their  profound  messages  speed  right  through  the 
minds  and  hearts,  without  as  much  as  spattering  the 
walls,  and  land  right  square  in  the  middle  of  the  lis- 
tener's vanity.     For  all  this  is  a  part  of  manner  and  its 


io8  EPILOGUE 

quality  is  of  splendor — for  manner  is  at  times  a  good 
bluff  but  substance  a  poor  one  and  knows  it.  The 
discovered  one's  usual  and  first  great  outburst  is  pro- 
bably the  greatest  truth  that  he  ever  utters.  Fear- 
lessly standing,  he  looks  straight  into  the  eyes  of  the 
populace  and  with  a  strong  ringing  voice  (for  strong 
voices  and  strong  statesmanship  are  inseparable)  and 
with  words  far  more  eloquent  than  the  following,  he 
sings  "This  honor  is  greater  than  I  deserve  but  duty 
calls  me — (what,  not  stated)  ...  If  elected,  I  shall 
be  your  servant  .  .  .  (for,  it  is  told,  that  he  believes 
in  modesty, — that  he  has  even  boasted  that  he  is  the 
most  modest  man  in  the  country)  .  .  .  Thus  he  has 
the  right  to  shout,  *'  First,  last  and  forever  I  am  for  the 
people.  I  am  against  all  bosses.  I  have  no  sympathy 
for  politicians.  I  am  for  strict  economy,  liberal 
improvements  and  justice!  I  am  also  for  the — ten 
commandments  "  (his  intuitive  political  sagacity  keeps 
him  from  mentioning  any  particular  one). — But  a 
sublime  height  is  always  reached  in  his  perorations. 
Here  we  learn  that  he  believes  in  honesty — (repeat 
''honesty'')] — we  are  even  allowed  to  infer  that  he  is 
one  of  the  very  few  who  know  that  there  is  such  a 
thing;  and  we  also  learn  that  since  he  was  a  little 
boy  (barefoot)  his  motto  has  been  "Do  Right," — he 
swerves  not  from  the  right! — he  believes  in  nothing 
but  the  right ;  (to  him — everything  is  right ! — if  it  gets 
him  elected) ; — but  cheers  invariably  stop  this  great 
final  truth  (in  brackets)  from  rising  to  animate 
expression.  Now  all  of  these  translucent  axioms  are 
true  (are  not  axioms  always  true?), — as  far  as  manner 
is  concerned.     In  other  words,  the  manner  functions 


EPILOGUE  109 

perfectly.  But  where  is  the  divine-substance?  This 
is  not  there — why  should  it  be — if  it  were  he  might 
not  be  there.  "Substance"  is  not  featured  in  this 
discovery.  For  the  truth  of  substance  is  sometimes 
silence,  sometimes  ellipses, — and  the  latter  if  supplied 
might  turn  some  of  the  declarations  above  into  perfect 
truths, — for  instance  "first  and  last  and  forever  I  am 
for  the  people  ('s  votes).  I'm  against  all  bosses 
(against  me).  I  have  no  sympathy  for  (rival)  poli- 
ticians," etc.,  etc.  But  these  tedious  attempts  at 
comedy  should  stop, — they're  too  serious, — besides 
the  illustration  may  be  a  little  hard  on  a  few,  the 
minority  (the  non-people)  though  not  on  the  many, 
the  majority  (the  people) !  But  even  an  assumed 
parody  may  help  to  show  what  a  power  manner  is  for 
reaction  unless  it  is  counterbalanced  and  then  satur- 
ated by  the  other  part  of  the  duality.  Thus  it  appears 
that  all  there  is  to  this  great  discovery  is  that  one  good 
politician  has  discovered  another  good  politician. 
For  manner  has  brought  forth  its  usual  talent; — for 
manner  cannot  discover  the  genius  who  has  discarded 
platitudes — the  genius  who  has  devised  a  new  and 
surpassing  order  for  mankind,  simple  and  intricate 
enough,  abstract  and  definite  enough,  locally  impracti- 
cal and  universally  practical  enough,  to  wipe  out 
the  need  for  further  discoveries  of  "talent"  and 
incidentally  the  discoverer's  own  fortune  and  political 
"manner."  Furthermore,  he  (this  genius)  never  will 
be  discovered  until  the  majority-spirit,  the  common- 
heart,  the  human-over  soul,  the  source  of  all  great 
values,  converts  all  talent  into  genius,  all  manner  into 
substance — until  the  direct  expression  of  the  mind 


no  EPILOGUE 

and  soul  of  the  majority,  the  divine  right  of  all  con- 
sciousness, social,  moral,  and  spiritual,  discloses  the 
one  true  art  and  thus  finally  discovers  the  one  true 
leader — even  itself: — then  no  leaders,  no  politicians, 
no  manner,  will  hold  sway — and  no  more  speeches  will 
be  heard. 

The  intensity  to-day,  with  which  techniques  and 
media  are  organized  and  used,  tends  to  throw  the 
mind  away  from  a  "common  sense"  and  towards 
"manner"  and  thus  to  resultant  weak  and  mental 
states — for  example,  the  Byronic  fallacy — that  one 
who  is  full  of  turbid  feeling  about  himself  is  qualified 
to  be  some  sort  of  an  artist.  In  this  relation  * '  manner" 
also  leads  some  to  think  that  emotional  sympathy 
for  self  is  as  true  a  part  of  art  as  sympathy  for  others ; 
and  a  prejudice  in  favor  of  the  good  and  bad  of  one 
personality  against  the  virtue  of  many  personalities. 
It  may  be  that  when  a  poet  or  a  whistler  becomes 
conscious  that  he  is  in  the  easy  path  of  any  particular 
idiom, — that  he  is  helplessly  prejudiced  in  favor  of  any 
particular  means  of  expression, — that  his  manner  can 
be  catalogued  as  modern  or  classic, — that  he  favors  a 
contrapuntal  groove,  a  sound-coloring  one,  a  sensuous 
one,  a  successful  one,  or  a  melodious  one  (whatever 
that  means), — that  his  interests  lie  in  the  French 
school  or  the  German  school,  or  the  school  of  Saturn, 
— that  he  is  involved  in  this  particular  "that"  or  that 
particular  "this,"  or  in  any  particular  brand  of 
emotional  complexes, — in  a  word,  when  he  becomes 
conscious  that  his  style  is  "his  personal  own," — that 
it  has  monopolized  a  geographical  part  of  the  world's 
sensibilities,  then  it  mav  be  that  the  value  of  his  sub- 


EPILOGUE  III 

stance  is  not  growing, — that  it  even  may  have  started 
on  its  way  backwards, — it  may  be  that  he  is  trading 
an  inspiration  for  a  bad  habit  and  finally  that  he  is 
reaching  fame,  permanence,  or  some  other  under- 
value, and  that  he  is  getting  farther  and  farther  from  a 
perfect  truth.  But,  on  the  contrary  side  of  the  pic- 
ture, it  is  not  unreasonable  to  imagine  that  if  he  (this 
poet,  composer,  and  laborer)  is  open  to  all  the  over- 
values within  his  reach, — if  he  stands  unprotected 
from  all  the  showers  of  the  absolute  which  may  beat 
upon  him, — if  he  is  willing  to  use  or  learn  to  use,  or  at 
least  if  he  is  not  afraid  of  trying  to  use,  whatever  he 
can,  of  any  and  all  lessons  of  the  infinite  that  humanity 
has  received  and  thrown  to  man, — that  nature  has 
exposed  and  sacrificed,  that  life  and  death  have 
translated — if  he  accepts  all  and  sympathizes  with 
all,  is  influenced  by  all,  whether  consciously  or  sub- 
consciously, drastically  or  humbly,  audibly  or  inaudi- 
bly,  whether  it  be  all  the  virtue  of  Satan  or  the  only  evil 
of  Heaven — and  all,  even,  at  one  time,  even  in  one 
chord, — then  it  may  be  that  the  value  of  his  substance, 
and  its  value  to  himself,  to  his  art,  to  all  art,  even  to 
the  Common  Soul  is  growing  and  approaching  nearer 
and  nearer  to  perfect  truths — whatever  they  are  and 
wherever  they  may  be. 

Again,  a  certain  kind  of  manner-over-insistence  may 
be  caused  by  a  group-disease  germ.  The  over-influence 
by,  the  over-admiration  of,  and  the  over-association 
with  a  particular  artistic  personality  or  a  particular 
type  or  group  of  personalities  tends  to  produce  equally 
favorable  and  unfavorable  symptoms,  but  the  un- 
favorable ones  seem  to  be  more  contagious.     Perhaps 


112  EPILOGUE 

the  impulsive  remark  of  some  famous  man  (whose 
name  we  forget)  that  he  "loved  music  but  hated 
musicians,"  might  be  followed  (with  some  good  re- 
sults) at  least  part  of  the  time.  To  see  the  sun  rise, 
a  man  has  but  to  get  up  early,  and  he  can  always  have 
Bach  in  his  pocket.  We  hear  that  Mr.  Smith  or  Mr. 
Morgan,  etc.,  et  al.  design  to  establish  a  "course  at 
Rome,"  to  raise  the  standard  of  American  music, 
(or  the  standard  of  American  composers — which  is  it  ?) 
but  possibly  the  more  our  composer  accepts  from  his 
patrons  " et  al."  the  less  he  will  accept  from  himself. 
It  may  be  possible  that  a  day  in  a  "Kansas  wheat 
field"  will  do  more  for  him  than  three  years  in  Rome. 
It  may  be,  that  many  men — perhaps  some  of  genius 
— (if  you  won't  admit  that  all  are  geniuses)  have 
been  started  on  the  downward  path  of  subsidy  by 
trying  to  write  a  thousand  dollar  prize  poem  or  a  ten 
thousand  dollar  prize  opera.  How  many  master- 
pieces have  been  prevented  from  blossoming  in  this 
way?  A  cocktail  will  make  a  man  eat  more,  but  will 
not  give  him  a  healthy,  normal  appetite  (if  he  had 
not  that  already).  If  a  bishop  should  offer  a  "prize 
living"  to  the  curate  who  will  love  God  the  hardest 
for  fifteen  days,  whoever  gets  the  prize  would  love 
God  the  least.  Such  stimulants,  it  strikes  us,  tend 
to  industrialize  art,  rather  than  develop  a  spiritual 
sturdiness — a  sturdiness  which  Mr.  Sedgwick  says^ 
"shows  itself  in  a  close  union  between  spiritual  life 
and  the  ordinary  business  of  life,"  against  spiritual 
feebleness  which  "shows  itself  in  the  separation  of  the 

'H.D.Sedgwick.     The  New  American  Type.     Riverside  Press. 


EPILOGUE  113 

two."  If  one's  spiritual  sturdiness  is  congenital 
and  somewhat  perfect  he  is  not  only  conscious  that 
this  separation  has  no  part  in  his  own  soul,  but  he 
does  not  feel  its  existence  in  others.  He  does  not 
believe  there  is  such  a  thing.  But  perfection  in  this 
respect  is  rare.  And  for  the  most  of  us,  we  believe, 
this  sturdiness  would  be  encouraged  by  anything  that 
will  keep  or  help  us  keep  a  normal  balance  between 
the  spiritual  life  and  the  ordinary  life.  If  for  every 
thousand  dollar  prize  a  potato  field  be  substituted, 
so  that  these  candidates  of  "Clio"  can  dig  a  little 
in  real  life,  perhaps  dig  up  a  natural  inspiration,  arts- 
air  might  be  a  Httle  clearer — a  little  freer  from  certain 
traditional  delusions,  for  instance,  that  free  thought 
and  free  love  always  go  to  the  same  cafe — that  at- 
mosphere and  diligence  are  synonymous.  To  quote 
Thoreau  incorrectly:  "When  half-Gods  talk,  the  Gods 
walk!"  Everyone  should  have  the  opportunity  of 
not  being  over-influenced. 

Again,  this  over-influence  by  and  over-insistence 
upon  "manner"  may  finally  lead  some  to  believe 
"that  manner  for  manner's  sake  is  a  basis  of  music." 
Someone  is  quoted  as  saying  that  "ragtime  is  the 
true  American  music."  Anyone  will  admit  that  it 
is  one  of  the  many  true,  natural,  and,  nowadays, 
conventional  means  of  expression.  It  is  an  idiom, 
perhaps  a  "set  or  series  of  colloquialisms,"  similar 
to  those  that  have  added  through  centuries  and 
through  natural  means,  some  beauty  to  all  languages. 
Every  language  is  but  the  evolution  of  slang,  and 
possibly  the  broad  "A"  in  Harvard  may  have  come 
down  from  the  * '  butcher  of  Southwark. ' '     To  examine 

8 


114  EPILOGUE 

ragtime  rhythms  and  the  syncopations  of  Schumann 
or  of  Brahms  seems  to  the  writer  to  show  how  much 
alike  they  are  not.  Ragtime,  as  we  hear  it,  is,  of 
course,  more  (but  not  much  more)  than  a  natural 
dogma  of  shifted  accents,  or  a  mixture  of  shifted  and 
minus  accents.  It  is  something  like  wearing  a  derby 
hat  on  the  back  of  the  head,  a  shuffling  lilt  of  a  happy 
soul  just  let  out  of  a  Baptist  Church  in  old  Alabama. 
Ragtime  has  its  possibilities.  But  it  does  not  "repre- 
sent the  American  nation"  any  more  than  some 
fine  old  senators  represent  it.  Perhaps  we  know  it 
now  as  an  ore  before  it  has  been  refined  into  a  product. 
It  may  be  one  of  nature's  ways  of  giving  art  raw 
material.  Time  will  throw  its  vices  away  and  weld  its 
virtues  into  the  fabric  of  our  music.  It  has  its  uses  as 
the  cruet  on  the  boarding-house  table  has,  but  to  make 
a  meal  of  tomato  ketchup  and  horse-radish,  to  plant  a 
whole  farm  with  sunflowers,  even  to  put  a  sunflower 
into  every  bouquet,  would  be  calling  nature  something 
worse  than  a  politician.  Mr.  Daniel  Gregory  Mason, 
whose  wholesome  influence,  by  the  way,  is  doing  as 
much  perhaps  for  music  in  America  as  American 
music  is,  amusingly  says:  "If  indeed  the  land  of 
Lincoln  and  Emerson  has  degenerated  until  nothing 
remains  of  it  but  a  'jerk  and  rattle, '  then  we,  at  least, 
are  free  to  repudiate  this  false  patriotism  of  '  my  Coun- 
try right  or  wrong, '  to  insist  that  better  than  bad 
music  is  no  music,  and  to  let  our  beloved  art  subside 
finally  under  the  clangor  of  the  subway  gongs  and 
automobile  horns,  dead,  but  not  dishonored."  And 
so  may  we  ask:  Is  it  better  to  sing  inadequately  of  the 
"leaf  on  Walden  floating,"  and  die  "dead  but  not  dis- 


EPILOGUE  115 

honored,"  or  to  sing  adequately  of  the  "cherry  on  the 
cocktail,"  and  live  forever? 


VI 

If  anyone  has  been  strong  enough  to  escape  these 
rocks — this  "Scylla  and  Charybdis," — has  survived 
these  wrong  choices,  these  under-values  with  their 
prizes,  Bohemias  and  heroes,  is  not  such  a  one  in 
a  better  position,  is  he  not  abler  and  freer  to  "de- 
clare himself  and  so  to  love  his  cause  so  singly  that 
he  will  cleave  to  it,  and  forsake  all  else?  What  is 
this  cause  for  the  American  composer  but  the  utmost 
musical  beauty  that  he,  as  an  individual  man,  with 
his  own  qualities  and  defects,  is  capable  of  understand- 
ing and  striving  towards? — forsaking  all  else  except 
those  types  of  musical  beauty  that  come  home  to 
him,"^  and  that  his  spiritual  conscience  intuitively 
approves. 

"It  matters  not  one  jot,  provided  this  course  of 
personal  loyalty  to  a  cause  be  steadfastly  pursued, 
what  the  special  characteristics  of  the  style  of  the 
music  may  be  to  which  one  gives  one's  devotion."* 
This,  if  over-translated,  may  be  made  to  mean,  what 
we  have  been  trying  to  say — that  if  your  interest, 
enthusiasm,  and  devotion  on  the  side  of  substance 
and  truth,  are  of  the  stuff  to  make  you  so  sincere  that 
you  sweat — to  hell  with  manner  and  repose!  Mr. 
Mason  is  responsible  for  too  many  young  minds,  in 
their  planting  season  to  talk  like  this,  to  be  as  rough, 

^  Contemporary  Composers,  D.  G.  Mason,  Macmillan  Co., 
N.  Y. 


ii6  EPILOGUE 

or  to  go  as  far,  but  he  would  probably  admit  that, 
broadly  speaking — some  such  way,  i.  e.,  constantly 
recognizing  this  ideal  duality  in  art,  though  not  the 
most  profitable  road  for  art  to  travel,  is  almost  its 
only  way  out  to  eventual  freedom  and  salvation. 
Sidney  Lanier,  in  a  letter  to  Bayard  Taylor  writes: 
* '  I  have  so  many  fair  dreams  and  hopes  about  music 
in  these  days  (1875).  It  is  gospel  whereof  the  people 
are  in  great  need.  As  Christ  gathered  up  the  Ten 
Commandments  and  redistilled  them  into  the  clear 
liquid  of  the  wondrous  eleventh — love  God  utterly 
and  thy  neighbor  as  thyself — so  I  think  the  time  will 
come  when  music  rightly  developed  to  its  now  little 
foreseen  grandeur  will  be  found  to  be  a  late  revelation 
of  all  gospels  in  one."  Could  the  art  of  music,  or 
the  art  of  anything  have  a  more  profound  reason  for 
being  than  this?  A  conception  unlimited  by  the 
narrow  names  of  Christian,  Pagan,  Jew,  or  Angel! 
A  vision  higher  and  deeper  than  art  itself ! 


VII 

The  humblest  composer  will  not  find  true  humility 
in  aiming  low — he  must  never  be  timid  or  afraid  of 
trying  to  express  that  which  he  feels  is  far  above  his 
power  to  express,  any  more  than  he  should  be  afraid 
of  breaking  away,  when  necessary,  from  easy  first 
sounds,  or  afraid  of  admitting  that  those  half  truths 
that  come  to  him  at  rare  intervals,  are  half  true, 
for  instance,  that  all  art  galleries  contain  master- 
pieces, which  are  nothing  more  than  a  history  of  art's 
beautiful  mistakes.     He  should  never  fear  of  being 


EPILOGUE  117 

called  a  high-brow — but  not  the  kind  in  Prof.  Brander 
Matthews'  definition.  John  L.  Sullivan  was  a 
"high-brow"  in  his  art.  A  high-brow  can  always  whip 
a  low-brow. 

If  he  "truly  seeks,"  he  "will  surely  find"  many 
things  to  sustain  him.  He  can  go  to  a  part  of  Alcott's 
philosophy — "that  all  occupations  of  man's  body 
and  soul  in  their  diversity  come  from  but  one  mind 
and  soul!"  If  he  feels  that  to  subscribe  to  all  of  the 
foregoing  and  then  submit,  though  not  as  evidence, 
the  work  of  his  own  hands  is  presumptuous,  let  him 
remember  that  a  man  is  not  always  responsible  for 
the  wart  on  his  face,  or  a  girl  for  the  bloom  on  her 
cheek,  and  as  they  walk  out  of  a  Sunday  for  an  airing, 
people  will  see  them — but  they  must  have  the  air. 
He  can  remember  with  Plotinus,  "that  in  every  human 
soul  there  is  the  ray  of  the  celestial  beauty,"  and 
therefore  every  human  outburst  may  contain  a  partial 
ray.  And  he  can  believe  that  it  is  better  to  go  to 
the  plate  and  strike  out  than  to  hold  the  bench  down, 
for  by  facing  the  pitcher,  he  may  then  know  the 
umpire  better,  and  possibly  see  a  new  parabola.  His 
presumption,  if  it  be  that,  may  be  but  a  kind  of 
courage  Juvenal  sings  about,  and  no  harm  can  then 
be  done  either  side.  '' Cantahit  vacuus  coram  latrone 
viator.''' 

VIII 

To  divide  by  an  arbitrary  line  something  that 
cannot  be  divided  is  a  process  that  is  disturbing  to 
some.  Perhaps  our  deductions  are  not  as  inevitable 
as  they  are  logical,  which  suggests  that  they  are  not 


ii8  EPILOGUE 

"logic."  An  arbitrary  assumption  is  never  fair  to 
all  any  of  the  time,  or  to  anyone  all  the  time.  Many 
will  resent  the  abrupt  separation  that  a  theory  of 
duality  in  music  suggests  and  say  that  these  general 
subdivisions  are  too  closely  inter-related  to  be  labeled 
decisively — "this  or  that."  There  is  justice  in  this 
criticism,  but  our  answer  is  that  it  is  better  to  be 
short  on  the  long  than  long  on  the  short.  In  such  an 
abstruse  art  as  music  it  is  easy  for  one  to  point  to 
this  as  substance  and  to  that  as  manner.  Some  will 
hold  and  it  is  undeniable — in  fact  quite  obvious — 
that  manner  has  a  great  deal  to  do  with  the  beauty 
of  substance,  and  that  to  make  a  too  arbitrary  divi- 
sion, or  distinction  between  them,  is  to  interfere,  to 
some  extent,  with  an  art's  beauty  and  unity.  There 
is  a  great  deal  of  truth  in  this  too.  But  on  the  other 
hand,  beauty  in  music  is  too  often  confused  with 
something  that  lets  the  ears  lie  back  in  an  easy  chair. 
Many  sounds  that  we  are  used  to,  do  not  bother  us, 
and  for  that  reason,  we  are  inclined  to  call  them  beau- 
tiful. Frequently, — possibly  almost  invariably,— 
analytical  and  impersonal  tests  will  show,  we  believe, 
that  when  a  new  or  unfamiliar  work  is  accepted  as 
beautiful  on  its  first  hearing,  its  fundamental  quality 
is  one  that  tends  to  put  the  mind  to  sleep.  A  narcotic 
is  not  always  unnecessary,  but  it  is  seldom  a  basis  of 
progress, — that  is,  wholesome  evolution  in  any  crea- 
tive experience.  This  kind  of  progress  has  a  great 
deal  to  do  with  beauty — at  least  in  its  deeper  emo- 
tional interests,  if  not  in  its  moral  values.  (The 
above  is  only  a  personal  impression,  but  it  is  based  on 
carefully  remembered  instances,  during  a  period  of 


EPILOGUE  119 

about  fifteen  or  twenty  years.)  Possibly  the  fondness 
for  individual  utterance  may  throw  out  a  skin-deep 
arrangement,  which  is  readily  accepted  as  beautiful 
— formulae  that  weaken  rather  than  toughen  up  the 
musical-muscles.  If  the  composer's  sincere  concep- 
tion of  his  art  and  of  its  functions  and  ideals,  coincide 
to  such  an  extent  with  these  groove-colored  permuta- 
tions of  tried  out  progressions  inexpediency,  that  he 
can  arrange  them  over  and  over  again  to  his  trans- 
cendent delight — has  he  or  has  he  not  been  drugged 
with  an  overdose  of  habit-forming  sounds?  And  as 
a  result  do  not  the  muscles  of  his  clientele  become 
flabbier  and  flabbier  until  they  give  way  altogether 
and  find  refuge  only  in  a  seasoned  opera  box — where 
they  can  see  without  thinking?  And  unity  is  too  gen- 
erally conceived  of,  or  too  easily  accepted  as  analogous 
to  form,  and  form  (as  analogous)  to  custom,  and  cus- 
tom to  habit,  and  habit  may  be  one  of  the  parents  of 
custom  and  form,  and  there  are  all  kinds  of  parents. 
Perhaps  all  unity  in  art,  at  its  inception,  is  half -natural 
and  half-artificial  but  time  insists,  or  at  least  makes  us, 
or  inclines  to  make  us  feel  that  it  is  all  natural.  It  is 
easy  for  us  to  accept  it  as  such.  The  "unity  of  dress " 
for  a  man  at  a  ball  requires  a  collar,  yet  he  could  dance 
better  without  it.  Coherence,  to  a  certain  extent,  must 
bear  some  relation  to  the  listener's  subconscious  per- 
spective. For  example,  a  critic  has  to  listen  to  a 
thousand  concerts  a  year,  in  which  there  is  much 
repetition,  not  only  of  the  same  pieces,  but  the  same 
formal  relations  of  tones,  cadences,  progessions,  etc. 
There  is  present  a  certain  routine  series  of  image- 
necessity-stimulants,  which  he  doesn't  seem  to  need 


120  EPILOGUE 

until  they  disappear.  Instead  of  listening  to  music, 
he  listens  around  it.  And  from  this  subconscious 
viewpoint,  he  inclines  perhaps  more  to  the  thinking 
about  than  thinking  in  music.  If  he  could  go  into 
some  other  line  of  business  for  a  year  or  so  perhaps 
his  perspective  would  be  more  naturally  normal. 
The  unity  of  a  sonata  movement  has  long  been  asso- 
ciated with  its  form,  and  to  a  greater  extent  than  is 
necessary.  A  first  theme,  a  development,  a  second 
in  a  related  key  and  its  development,  the  free  fantasia, 
the  recapitulation,  and  so  on,  and  over  again.  Mr. 
Richter  or  Mr.  Parker  may  tell  us  that  all  this  is 
natural,  for  it  is  based  on  the  classic-song  form,  but 
in  spite  of  your  teachers  a  vague  feeling  sometimes 
creeps  over  you  that  the  form-nature  of  the  song  has 
been  stretched  out  into  deformity.  Some  claim  for 
Tchaikowsky  that  his  clarity  and  coherence  of  design 
is  unparalleled  (or  some  such  word)  in  works  for  the 
orchestra.  That  depends,  it  seems  to  us,  on  how  far 
repetition  is  an  essential  part  of  clarity  and  coherence. 
We  know  that  butter  comes  from  cream — but  how 
long  must  we  watch  the  "churning  arm!"  If  nature 
is  not  enthusiastic  about  explanation,  why  should 
Tschaikowsky  be  ?  Beethoven  had  to  churn,  to 
some  extent,  to  make  his  message  carry.  He  had  to 
pull  the  ear,  hard  and  in  the  same  place  and  several 
times,  for  the  1790  ear  was  tougher  than  the  1890 
one.  But  the  "great  Russian  weeper"  might  have 
spared  us.  To  Emerson,  "unity  and  the  over-soul, 
or  the  common-heart,  are  synonymous."  Unity  is 
at  least  nearer  to  these  than  to  solid  geometry,  though 
geometry  may  be  all  unity. 


EPILOGUE  121 

But  to  whatever  unpleasantness  the  holding  to 
this  theory  of  duality  brings  us,  we  feel  that  there  is 
a  natural  law  underneath  it  all,  and  like  all  laws  of 
nature,  a  liberal  interpretation  is  the  one  nearest  the 
truth.  What  part  of  these  supplements  are  opposites  ? 
What  part  of  substance  is  manner?  What  part  of 
this  duality  is  polarity?  These  questions  though  not 
immaterial  may  be  disregarded,  if  there  be  a  sincere 
appreciation  (intuition  is  always  sincere)  of  the 
** divine"  spirit  of  the  thing.  Enthusiasm  for,  and 
recognition  of  these  higher  over  these  lower  values 
will  transform  a  destructive  iconoclasm  into  creation, 
and  a  mere  devotion  into  consecration — a  consecra- 
tion which,  like  Amphion's  music,  will  raise  the  Walls 
of  Thebes. 

IX 

Assuming,  and  then  granting,  that  art-activity 
can  be  transformed  or  led  towards  an  eventual 
consecration,  by  recognizing  and  using  in  their  true 
relation,  as  much  as  one  can,  these  higher  and  lower 
dual  values — and  that  the  doing  so  is  a  part,  if  not  the 
whole  of  our  old  problem  of  paralleling  or  approving 
in  art  the  highest  attributes,  moral  and  spiritual,  one 
sees  in  life — if  you  will  grant  all  this,  let  us  offer  a 
practical  suggestion — a  thing  that  one  who  has  im- 
posed the  foregoing  should  try  to  do  just  out  of  com- 
mon decency,  though  it  be  but  an  attempt,  perhaps, 
to  make  his  speculations  less  speculative,  and  to 
beat  off  metaphysics. 

All,  men-bards  with  a  divine  spark,  and  bards 
without,  feel  the  need  at  times  of  an  inspiration  from 


122  EPILOGUE 

without,  "the  breath  of  another  soul  to  stir  our  inner 
flame,"  especially  when  we  are  in  pursuit  of  a  part 
of  that  "utmost  musical  beauty,"  that  we  are  capable 
of  understanding — when  we  are  breathlessly  running 
to  catch  a  glimpse  of  that  unforeseen  grandeur  of 
Mr.  Lanier's  dream.  In  this  beauty  and  grandeur 
perhaps  marionettes  and  their  souls  have  a  part — 
though  how  great  their  part  is,  we  hear,  is  still  unde- 
termined; but  it  is  morally  certain  that,  at  times,  a 
part  with  itself  must  be  some  of  those  greater  con- 
templations that  have  been  caught  in  the  "World's 
Soul,"  as  it  were,  and  nourished  for  us  there  in  the 
soil  of  its  literature. 

If  an  interest  in,  and  a  sympathy  for,  the  thought- 
visions  of  men  like  Charles  Kingsley,  Marcus  Aurelius, 
Whittier,  Montaigne,  Paul  of  Tarsus,  Robert  Brown- 
ing, Pythagoras,  Channing,  Milton,  Sophocles,  Swed- 
enborg,  Thoreau,  Francis  of  Assisi,  Wordsworth, 
Voltaire,  Garrison,  Plutarch,  Ruskin,  Ariosto,  and 
all  kindred  spirits  and  souls  of  great  measure,  from 
David  down  to  Rupert  Brooke, — if  a  study  of  the 
thought  of  such  men  creates  a  sympathy,  even  a  love 
for  them  and  their  ideal-part,  it  is  certain  that  this, 
however  inadequately  expressed,  is  nearer  to  what 
music  was  given  man  for,  than  a  devotion  to  "Tristan's 
sensual  love  of  Isolde,"  to  the  "Tragic  Murder  of  a 
Drunken  Duke,"  or  to  the  sad  thoughts  of  a  bath- 
tub when  the  water  is  being  let  out.  It  matters  little 
here  whether  a  man  who  paints  a  picture  of  a  useless 
beautiful  landscape  imperfectly  is  a  greater  genius 
than  the  man  who  paints  a  useful  bad  smell  perfectly. 

It  is  not  intended  in  this  suggestion  that  inspira- 


EPILOGUE  123 

tions  coming  from  the  higher  planes  should  be  limited 
to  any  particular  thought  or  work,  as  the  mind  re- 
ceives it.  The  plan  rather  embraces  all  that  should 
go  with  an  expression  of  the  composite-value.  It  is 
of  the  underlying  spirit,  the  direct  unrestricted  im- 
print of  one  soul  on  another,  a  portrait,  not  a  photo- 
graph of  the  personality — it  is  the  ideal  part  that  would 
be  caught  in  this  canvas.  It  is  a  sympathy  for 
"substance" — the  over-value  together  with  a  con- 
sciousness that  there  must  be  a  lower  value — the 
"Demosthenic  part  of  the  Philippics" — the  "Ciceronic 
part  of  the  Catiline,"  the  sublimity,  against  the  vile- 
ness  of  Rousseau's  Confessions.  It  is  something  akin  to, 
but  something  more  than  these  predominant  partial 
tones  of  Hawthorne — "the  grand  old  countenance  of 
Homer;  the  decrepit  form,  but  vivid  face  of  ^sop; 
the  dark  presence  of  Dante;  the  wild  Ariosto;  Rabe- 
lais' smile  of  deep-wrought  mirth;  the  profound, 
pathetic  humor  of  Cervantes ;  the  all-glorious  Shake- 
speare; Spenser,  meet  guest  for  allegoric  structure; 
the  severe  divinity  of  Milton;  and  Bunyon,  molded 
of  humblest  clay,  but  instinct  with  celestial  fire." 

There  are  communities  now,  partly  vanished,  but 
cherished  and  sacred,  scattered  throughout  this 
world  of  ours,  in  which  freedom  of  thought  and  soul, 
and  even  of  body,  have  been  fought  for.  And  we 
believe  that  there  ever  lives  in  that  part  of  the  over- 
soul,  native  to  them,  the  thoughts  which  these  free- 
dom-struggles have  inspired.  America  is  not  too 
young  to  have  its  divinities,  and  its  place  legends. 
Many  of  those  "Transcendent  Thoughts"  and 
"Visions"  which  had  their  birth  beneath  our  Concord 


124  EPILOGUE 

elms — messages  that  have  brought  salvation  to  many 
listening  souls  throughout  the  world — are  still  growing, 
day  by  day,  to  greater  and  greater  beauty — are  still 
showing  clearer  and  clearer  man's  way  to  God! 

No  true  composer  will  take  his  substance  from  an- 
other finite  being — but  there  are  times,  when  he  feels 
that  his  self-expression  needs  some  liberation  from 
at  least  a  part  of  his  own  soul.  At  such  times,  shall 
he  not  better  turn  to  those  greater  souls,  rather  than 
to  the  external,  the  immediate,  and  the  "Garish 
Day"? 

The  strains  of  one  man  may  fall  far  below  the 
course  of  those  Phaetons  of  Concord,  or  of  the  JEgean 
Sea,  or  of  Westmoreland — but  the  greater  the  distance 
his  music  falls  away,  the  more  reason  that  some 
greater  man  shall  bring  his  nearer  those  higher  spheres. 


•f.,. 


mmmmmm 
mymmmw0 


iMlii